Facial Emotion Recognition and Social Functioning in Children With and Without Attention Deficit/hyperactivity Disorder

Open Access
Reynolds, Marissa Lynn
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Cynthia L Huang Pollock, Thesis Supervisor
  • William Ray, Honors Advisor
  • ADHD
  • peers
  • friendships
  • social functioning
  • social competence
  • facial emotion recognition
Objective: ADHD is associated with negative outcomes across many areas of functioning, particularly in social skills and peer relations. There are many potential variables that may contribute to social skills deficits and negative peer relationships, including the ability to recognize facial emotions. The current project explores the links between this ability and social functioning in children with and without ADHD, including possible mediations of age and gender. Methods: 129 children categorized as ADHD and 63 controls completed a computer based facial emotion recognition task using standardized black and white photographs of adults displaying happy, sad, mad and scared faces. In addition, one parent and teacher of each participant completed a questionnaire regarding the child’s social skills and quality of peer relationships. Results: Control participants displayed significantly faster reaction times to happy faces and sad faces, as well as greater accuracy in identifying these faces. In addition, there were significant correlations between age and reaction times to happy and sad faces, such that younger children displayed slower reaction times to these stimuli. No significant results were found for a main effect of gender upon measures of facial emotion recognition. Finally, it was found that participants’ abilities to accurately recognize emotions were not significantly correlated with parents’ and teachers’ ratings of their social skills and peer relations. Conclusion: These findings suggest that differences exist in the ability of children with ADHD to react to and correctly identify facial emotions. Potential reasons for a lack of significant correlation to social skills and quality of friendships is discussed.