Psychological compensation in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - application of a theoretical framework

  • The term compensation is widely used in every-day language, in psychological research, and also discussed in the context of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, few studies have looked at psychological compensation in ADHD systematically and theory based. Compensation can be inferred if a deficit (i.e., a mismatch between skill and environmental demand) is counterbalanced by the investment of more effort, the utilization of latent or the acquisition of new skills. Based on the application of a theoretical framework (Bäckman & Dixon, 1992) to ADHD, I developed the following aims: (1) To reassess the awareness of deficits in ADHD and (2) to explore psychological compensation in a group with ADHD that accomplishes high achievement. The results of Study 1 showed that children with ADHD did not overestimate their own skills compared to a group matched for academic achievement. In Study 2, college students with ADHD reported higher achievement motivation compared to college students without ADHD. Furthermore, results indicated that women with ADHD compensate by adopting compensatory effort and obsessive-compulsive behavior. Study 3 showed that female college students compensate for possible deficits in solving a flanker task by being overly cautious, which may reflect more obsessive-compulsive behavior. The studies are discussed within the framework of psychological compensation. They add to the understanding of compensation in ADHD by (1) the reassessment of awareness of deficits in ADHD by including a group without ADHD but with low achievement, and by (2) suggesting that overly cautious behavior could be a form of psychological compensation in females with ADHD enabling them to enter college, leading to a late diagnosis and to good performance in cognitive tasks (i.e., flanker task). Limitations are, that I did not test all components of the theoretical framework in one study and that I did not include adults with ADHD that did not enter college in Study 2 and 3 to test if achievement motivation or overly cautious behavior explains why some adults with ADHD gain admittance to higher education and show good performance in cognitive tasks and others do not. 

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Author:Anne Christine Julia Merkt
Place of publication:Frankfurt am Main
Referee:Caterina GawrilowORCiDGND, Christian FiebachORCiDGND
Advisor:Caterina Gawrilow
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of Publication (online):2014/03/26
Year of first Publication:2014
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Granting Institution:Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität
Date of final exam:2013/12/18
Release Date:2014/04/09
Tag:ADHD; compensation
Page Number:76
Institutes:Psychologie und Sportwissenschaften / Psychologie
Dewey Decimal Classification:1 Philosophie und Psychologie / 15 Psychologie / 150 Psychologie
Licence (German):License LogoDeutsches Urheberrecht