Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are”: a social network analysis of adolescents with ADHD

“Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are” is a true popular saying concerning executive functioning in adolescents, but false to those with ADHDwho are at a disadvantage in the social group

INTRO

  • Peer rejection and poor mutual friendship are among the possible causes of an impaired social functioning in children and adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Very few studies have explored this field with modern tools of Social Psychology.

Objectives

  • To study the impact of ADHD on the process of social selection of best friends using social network analysis (SNA) techniques in a network of adolescents attending a public school.
  • To investigate the occurrence of homophily (the extent to which individuals form ties with similar versus dissimilar others) in adolescents with ADHD.

METHODS

  • Sample consists of 108 sixth and seventh-graders (10 to 16 years) recruited at a public school of a low-density Brazilian city (Delfinópolis – Brazil).
  • Parents and teachers were interviewed using standardized and validated questionnaires (Strenghts and Difficulties Questionnaire, MTA-SNAP IV and EFICA).
  • ADHD was ascertained as per the DSM-5.
  • A rank of the top three friends was requested from the adolescents.
  • SNA techniques were applied as Exponential Random Graphs Model (ERGM) to verify the impact of ADHD on the selection of friendships, relational configurations and attributes of the actors in the selection of best friends.
  • Homophily was evaluated according to Pearson’s correlation coefficient (C Constraint).

RESULTS

  • Of 108 adolescents 7 (6.5%) met DSM-5 criteria for ADHD.
  • Those with ADHD tended to occupy the periphery of the social network and to develop a relational pattern that expressed less autonomy (C Constraint = 0.249, p <0.01), whereas students without ADHD were more likely to be selected as best friends.
  • The homophily mechanism was observed based on the affiliation to the classroom and on the diagnosis of ADHD, which suggests that the equals are sought as best friends.

CONCLUSIONS

  • Adolescents with ADHD are less popular (less often they are nominated as best friends) and tend to occupy peripheral position in the social network, with less autonomy and access to the resources that circulating in the network.
  • Adolescents with better executive functioning are more popular (more often nominated as best friends) and tend to occupy a central position in the social network, having more autonomy and greater control over the flow of resources circulating in the network.
  • According to the ERGM the homophilia mechanism is observed concerning executive functioning
    (the better the executive functioning, the greater the chance of the teen being chosen as a best friend). The effect of ADHD on the selection of best friends was not significant.
  • “TELL ME WITH WHOM YOU WALK, AND I WILL TELL YOU WHO YOU ARE” is a true popular saying concerning executive functioning in adolescents, but false to those with ADHD who are at a disadvantage in the social group.
  • These findings represent a new and potential paradigm in the multimodal treatment of adolescents with ADHD.

Ribeiro, ACR1 ; Arruda, R2; Arruda, MA3
1 Federal University of Alfenas, Department of Human Sciences;
2 Ribeirão Preto Medical School, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil; 3Glia Institute, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil

Funding Source
No external funding for this manuscript.

Disclosure of interest
The authors report no conflict of interest.

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