8/30/12

Girls and Women with ADHD: Cheeky Girls and the Capacity to Tackle New Challenges


“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of childhood into maturity.” 
-Thomas Huxley 

I like to believe that we ADHD’rs readily embrace this idea. After all, by nature we are playful pans whose lifelong struggle centers on the restricting of childlike excitement, energy, and inattention in favor of more sensible--albeit unnatural--behaviors and tendencies.

“The Trouble with Bright Girls” by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D. on PsychologyToday.com encouraged me to consider how girls with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) respond differently to new challenges. In this article, Halvorson contrasts the ways in which 5th grade girls and boys approach material that they perceive as difficult:
“Bright girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up—and the higher the girls' IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel…Bright boys, on the other hand, saw the difficult material as a challenge, and found it energizing.”
Halvorson sites the feedback that girls are given from parents and teachers in early childhood as the psychological basis for this difference:
“When [girls] do well in school, we are told that we are ‘so smart,’ ‘so clever,’ or ‘such a good student.’ This kind of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness, and goodness are qualities you either have or you don't.

Boys, on the other hand, are a handful. Just trying to get boys to sit still and pay attention is a real challenge for any parent or teacher. As a result, boys are given a lot more feedback that emphasizes effort (e.g., ‘If you would just pay attention you could learn this,’ ‘If you would just try a little harder you could get it right.’) The net result: when learning something new is truly difficult, girls take it as sign that they aren't ‘good’ and ‘smart,’ and boys take it as a sign to pay attention and try harder.”
With these details in mind, I wonder how the results of this study would differ if a group of boys and girls with ADHD were tested. I don’t know about you, but as both a girl and a woman with ADHD, I have always been tenacious, whether (repeatedly) asking my parents for a new pet or standing up for a friend who had been wronged. Perhaps this difference comes about because, as girls, we ADHD’rs exhibit many of the traits that give little boys the reputation of being “a handful.” Perhaps, even though it takes us a little longer to learn to rules of the classroom or the home, we benefit from that rebellious spirit that we later “carry into adulthood.”

As someone with ADHD, how do you think this study would (or would not) differ if it focused on kids with ADHD? Comment below or email me at WriteToJulianna




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