The Positive Illusory Bias (PIB) in parents with and without Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common psychological conditions in childhood. This disorder is characterized by inattentiveness and/or hyperactivity or impulsivity. Children with ADHD can have major difficulties in important areas of their life, such as in relationships, in their family, and at school. In addition, although treatments are available for this disorder, none of the treatments are without problems and they are of limited long-term effectiveness. Recent studies show that adults can also have ADHD. These adults are at risk for conduct problems, substance abuse, relationship difficulties, driving impairments, employment issues, academic deficits, and poor parenting. Thus, ADHD has negative consequences for both the individual and society. However, as with children, much remains to be done to improve the success of treatments for adults with ADHD. Children with ADHD overestimate their abilities in areas in which they are actually deficient. This is called a Positive Illusory Bias. It is well-known that children are typically optimistic, but the bias of children with ADHD is different from this normal optimism in three major ways. First of all, children with ADHD have a greater absolute positive bias than children without ADHD in that their self-perceptions are even more positive than the self-perceptions of children without ADHD. Secondly, in contrast to those without ADHD, the positive illusions of children with ADHD do not serve to enhance the children’s motivation, endurance, or performance. Finally, children with ADHD maintain their positive illusions even in the face of clear contradictory evidence while the positive illusions of those without ADHD move closer to reality after receiving feedback. Clearly, the Positive Illusory Bias found in children with ADHD is qualitatively different than the self-enhancing optimism generally found in children, and it may have detrimental consequences for the performance of these children and for their motivation to engage in treatment. To date, no research explores the existence of the Positive Illusory Bias in adults with ADHD. In particular, no studies have tested whether the Positive Illusory Bias found in children with ADHD also exists in parents with ADHD. Given research showing that children with ADHD are likely to have parents with ADHD, it seems crucial to examine this question. If a Positive Illusory Bias does indeed exist in parents with ADHD, then these adults may have less motivation to seek or maintain treatment for managing both themselves and their children. For instance, if adults with ADHD hold overly positive views of their parenting, they will be less likely to use parenting programs and services. This could have a negative effect on the outcome of their children. My research will test whether parents with ADHD have a Positive Illusory Bias in the areas of work, relationships, intelligence, and parenting. Female participants who are mothers will be recruited into two groups: a group of mothers with ADHD, and a control group of mothers without ADHD. The diagnosis of ADHD will be determined by information provided by the participant and by someone who knows the participant well (e.g. a spouse). All mothers will complete a self-perception questionnaire that inquires about the four previously-mentioned domains of functioning. The other informants (those who know the mother well) will complete the same questionnaire, answering the questions in reference to the mother. The ratings of the other informants will then be compared to the self-ratings of the mothers. It is predicted that differences in discrepancies between self and other ratings will be larger in the ADHD group than the control group. I will also assess whether the mother is depressed, whether her child has ADHD, and whether the mother has a tendency to respond in a socially desirable manner, so that these variables can be controlled for in analyses of the discrepancy scores. Knowing whether a Positive Illusory Bias exists in adults and more specifically, parents with ADHD can lead to improvements in relevant treatments. For instance, this Positive Illusory Bias may contribute to treatment resistance, whether the treatment is ultimately for the adult or for their child, and it may be possible to develop and utilize specialized techniques to bring the positive self-perceptions of parents with ADHD more in line with reality before beginning treatment. Moreover, consideration of the Positive Illusory Bias as a predictor of treatment response will allow for more informed problem-solving on the part of the clinician in response to resistance to treatment from the client. As such, although there are a number of ways in which the Positive Illusory Bias in parents with ADHD may contribute to improved treatment for this disorder, it is necessary to first answer the question of this study, which is whether or not this bias exists in parents with ADHD.