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Why More Boys Than Girls With ADHD Receive Treatment: A Study of Dutch Twins

  • Eske M. Derks (a1), James J. Hudziak (a2) and Dorret I. Boomsma (a3)

Abstract

More boys than girls with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) receive treatment. One explanation for this bias may be that boys score higher on disruptive behavior scales than girls. Although this was supported by findings in clinical samples, recent studies in nonreferred samples showed that boys and girls with ADHD are similar with respect to their levels of disruptive behavior as reported by their mother. In this report, we investigate whether the difference in treatment rate is associated with higher teacher problem scores in boys with ADHD than in girls with ADHD. Data were obtained from mothers and teachers in a nonreferred sample of 283 boys and 291 girls with and without ADHD. Children were selected when they scored either low (controls) or high (probands) on attention problems. Mothers completed DSM-IV interviews, Child Behavior Checklists (CBCL) and the Conners Rating Scale (CRS). Teachers filled in the Teacher Report Form (TRF), and the CRS. Boys and girls with ADHD had similar levels of psychiatric illness and school impairment (such as being held back, special class placement and learning problems) by mother report. Mothers reported similar levels of aggression and attention problems in boys and girls with ADHD. In contrast, teachers consistently rated boys with ADHD as having higher scores on reports of attention problems and aggression than girls with ADHD. Gender differences vary across settings: boys and girls with ADHD are rated as behaving differently at school, but not at home. The higher level of teacher reported problem behavior at school may explain the high male–female ratio for ADHD in clinical settings. These findings have implications for the results of genetic studies that rely on referred samples, as these studies may give a distorted view of sex differences in the population.

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Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Eske M. Derks, Vrije Universiteit, Department: Biological Psychology, Van der Boechorststraat 1,1081 BT Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

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Why More Boys Than Girls With ADHD Receive Treatment: A Study of Dutch Twins

  • Eske M. Derks (a1), James J. Hudziak (a2) and Dorret I. Boomsma (a3)

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