Role of executive functions in parenting behaviours and children’s social functioning in families of children with ADHD

Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have trouble sustaining attention and may also display excessive hyperactivity and impulsivity. A major day-to-day impairment for children with ADHD is in their social relationships with peers. In this area, children with ADHD frequently struggle, and have trouble making and keeping friends as a result. It is important to address these issues early, as social problems increase children’s risk for many negative outcomes including academic failure, aggression and delinquency, substance abuse, and depression and suicide.

Research suggests that difficulties with executive functions (e.g., attention, self-control, working memory, organization and planning) are a key part of ADHD. However, it is not yet clear how executive functioning difficulties may affect the problems children with ADHD face in their daily life, such as peer relationships. 
Dr. Hudec will explore how executive functions relate to social skills and the ability to make and keep friends in children with ADHD. This will lead to a better understanding of the social problems affecting children with ADHD.

Importantly, symptoms of ADHD frequently occur within families, so parents of children with ADHD are more likely to experience ADHD themselves, and to be at risk for poor executive functioning themselves. Dr. Hudec will also examine how parental executive functioning may affect parents’ ability to implement behavioural interventions.

Understanding how executive functioning in both children and adults affects children’s social problems may help improve available clinical treatments for children with ADHD and will guide development of therapeutic activities that can be adapted to parents’ strengths and weaknesses. Dr. Hudec’s findings will be shared through family-based interventions and community-based education sessions, as well as professional presentations and publications that will inform practice by researchers and clinicians.