Effects of Internalizing/externalizing Comorbidity on Online Social Communication in Children with Attention Deficit/hyperactivity Disorder

Open Access
Balko, Amy Lynn
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Cynthia L Huang Pollock, Thesis Supervisor
  • Rick R Jacobs, Honors Advisor
  • internalizing
  • externalizing
  • comorbidity
  • ADHD
  • social skils
Objective: Both internalizing and externalizing comorbid disorders are associated with ADHD. Both types of comorbidity have been shown to negatively impact social skills in different ways. Children with ADHD and internalizing comorbidity tend to be more withdrawn in social situations, while children with ADHD and externalizing comorbidity tend to be more aggressive. This project aims to investigate whether or not these same social skill deficits and/or problems extend into a more modern form of technological communication. Methods: Children with and without ADHD participated in a simulated chat room task for which responses were coded and given a skill level and categorized (e.g., prosocial, off-topic, hostile, no category, etc). One parent and one teacher filled out questionnaires in order to assess the child’s social skills, behaviors, thoughts/feelings, and symptoms of ADHD. Self-report measures of depression and anxiety were administered to the children. Results: Children with ADHD had more symptoms of depression and anxiety, more conduct problems, and worse social skills than non-ADHD controls as reported by parents and child self-report (CDI and MASC). However, no significant differences were found between children with and without ADHD on overall skill level in the in the simulated Chat Room task. There was also no significant relationship between internalizing/externalizing problems and social skills in the Chat Room task. Conclusion: Results of this study support previous research that finds higher levels of internalizing and externalizing comorbidity and social skill deficits in children with ADHD, although these children were still within the normative range of functioning and level of comorbid symptoms. While results involving the Chat Room task were insignificant, improvement upon limiting factors of this project can hopefully lead to the development of more accurate assessments of the relationship between comorbidity with ADHD and technological social interactions.