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Beyond words: how do children with ADHD and/or conduct problems process nonverbal information about affect?

Author information

  • 1Brain and Behavior Research Program, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada. rschachar@sickkids.on.ca

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To study nonverbal social cue perception in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; n = 86), conduct problems (CP; n = 24), or both disorders (ADHD + CP; n = 63), as well as normal controls (n = 27).

METHOD:

Using a standardized test of receptive nonverbal processing abilities, participants were required to interpret emotional cues from pictures of facial expressions and recordings of voices.

RESULTS:

As predicted, children with CP and ADHD were significantly less accurate at interpreting emotions than normal controls. However, children with CP and ADHD differed in the type of errors made: the ADHD group's errors were generally random in nature, whereas the CP group tended to misinterpret emotions as anger. Contrary to our hypothesis, the ADHD + CP group performed better than the ADHD and CP groups, was as accurate as the control group, and displayed a unique pattern of errors.

CONCLUSIONS:

These results support the idea that social deficiencies associated with CP arise from a biased perception of emotion, whereas social problems in ADHD originate from a failure to attend to the appropriate cues of affect. The findings also support the theory that comorbid ADHD + CP is a distinct disorder.

PMID:
10986813
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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