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J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2001 Feb;29(1):23-39.

Depression and self-esteem in boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: associations with comorbid aggression and explanatory attributional mechanisms.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley 94720-1650, USA.


It was tested whether boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), subgrouped by aggressive status, would show higher rates of depressive symptomatology and lower levels of self-esteem than would comparison boys and, in a subsample, explored attributional mechanisms that may be related to such internalizing features. Study 1 utilized 114 boys with ADHD (all prior recipients of stimulant medication) and 87 comparison boys, aged 7-12 years. Aggressive boys with ADHD reported more symptoms of depression than did nonaggressive boys with ADHD, who, in turn, reported more depression than did comparison boys. Effect sizes were moderate to large and did not vary with a depression rating scale uncontaminated by ADHD-related items. For self-esteem, the most pronounced effect was that aggressive boys with ADHD showed lower levels than did nonaggressive ADHD or comparison boys; effects were again moderate to large. Study 2 participants were a subsample of boys with ADHD from Study 1 (N = 27). We probed causal attributions in ADHD-related domains through responses to hypothetical vignettes, in which the protagonist's medication status (medicated, not medicated) was crossed with type of outcome (good, bad). Medication-related attributions were frequent. In describing the protagonist's success in relation to medication treatment, the sample showed significant associations between (a) medication-related attributions and (b) increased depressive symptomatology as well as decreased self-esteem. We discuss attributional processes that may help to explain the variation in internalizing symptoms among children with ADHD.

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