November 25, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Psychology Grad Students Present ‘Comparing and Contrasting the Understanding of Romantic Relationships in Young Adolescents With and Without ADHD’

Several Ohio University Psychology graduate students presented a poster at on “Comparing and Contrasting the Understanding of Romantic Relationships in Young Adolescents With and Without ADHD” the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies annual convention Nov. 20-23 in Philadelphia.

A. Raise PetcaJoanna Sadler, and Allison Zoromski are graduate students in Psychology at Ohio University. Dr. Steven Evans is Professor and Assistant Chair for Graduate Studies in Psychology. Erin Warns is an undergraduate student at Ohio University and was also a co-author.

Abstract: Romantic relationships in early adolescence have benefits such as learning to experience and manage emotions in close relationships (Connolly et al., 2004), but they also have  drawbacks such as risk for earlier sexual intercourse (Billari & Mencarini, 2003), substance use (Zimmer-Gembeck et al., 2001) and dating aggression (Halpern et al., 2001). Youth with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) exhibit deficits in establishing and maintaining peer relationships (e.g., Bagwell et al., 2001) and have difficulties within the dyadic relationships realm (Canu & Carlson, 2007; Young, 2000) that are likely to compromise their early attempts at romantic relationships. Despite the important implications for social development and future related outcomes, the existing studies pertaining to romantic relationships in adolescence are scarce and mostly focused on older adolescents in existing dyadic relationships (e.g., Galiher et al., 2008; Simon et al., 2008). The work that has been done with young adolescents (e.g., the Romantic Competence Inventory, Davila et al., 2009), has been completed with girls without ADHD. Important questions about the definition of boyfriend/girlfriend as well as the process of becoming involved in a romantic relationship at an early age (Shulman & Sharf, 2000) have not been examined in adolescents with ADHD. Understanding these basic constructs of romantic relationships from the perspective of youth with and without ADHD is relevant to understand normative expectations, improve our measures, and develop methods to help youth progress through this developmental stage. The current study is aimed at providing an understanding about (a) how young adolescents understand the notion of boyfriend/girlfriend; (b) the process of getting involved in a romantic relationship in early adolescence; and (c) the characteristics that young adolescents value in a boyfriend/girlfriend. This study provides insight in similarities and differences pertaining to these issues, based on gender and ADHD status. Youth of mean age 12.23 years (SD=1.19) participated in focus groups of 3 to 6 adolescents of the same gender and ADHD status and discussed issues related to their understanding of romantic relationships. Transcripts of the focus groups were coded using content analysis methodology (Ryan & Bernard, 2003), with the intent of extracting common themes within each target group (e.g., boys with ADHD). Preliminary results showed that the non-ADHD group uniquely identified multiple characteristics that they value in a boyfriend/girlfriend (e.g., looks, being smart, having good conversations), and the group with ADHD uniquely valued receiving support from a boyfriend/girlfriend. Unlike boys, girls stated that being shown attention from boyfriends is important. Boys valued the girlfriend’s personality and disliked being yelled at by their girlfriend. All youth identified friendship and giving gifts as important parts of a romantic relationship. This study shed light on some of the research gaps in romantic relationships identified by Collins (2003), namely: partner selection, shared activities, valued characteristics of and expectations for the romantic partner.

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