UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 07 | April
Attention-deficit going undiagnosed, untreated, says student researcher
Current criteria may be overlooking hyperactive girls
by Bruce Mason staff writer
Research at UBC is revealing that many girls who
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are not
"Between six and nine boys for every one girl are currently being referred
to services for ADHD but studies indicate that the true
ratio is closer
to two or three boys to every girl," says Jeneva Ohan, a
She is conducting tests to identify ADHD behaviours in girls to improve
assessment and treatment.
Ohan is also actively spreading the word in the community.
She will conduct a free public workshop on the current status of research,
treatments and where to go for help on Tuesday, April 17, at 7 p.m. at the
Richmond Cultural Centre.
The workshop is organized by the Richmond branch of the Canadian Mental Health
ADHD, one of the most common psychiatric childhood
disorders, is characterized
by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention including distraction
and daydreams and/or hyperactive and impulsive behaviour such as
staying seated or awaiting a turn.
Approximately five per cent of children meet the criteria for
often have a higher risk for failing and dropping out of school, adolescent
parenthood, driving accidents and arrest.
"ADHD criteria may not identify how girls show these problems because
criteria for diagnosis were developed based on research with mostly
In a study designed with her supervisor Psychology Prof. Charlotte Johnston,
mothers identified current criteria used to diagnose ADHD as more
appropriate for boys and other inattentive and hyperactive behaviours not used
in diagnosis as descriptive of girls.
For example, fidgeting or squirming is included as part of the criteria for
ADHD, but whispering to classmates and doodling instead of doing work
Girls with ADHD may also be receiving treatments that are more
appropriate for boys.
"It is often difficult for ADHD boys to
develop solid social
relationships and given this information, effective treatment plans
have been developed," Ohan says.
"We know social relationships are more important to girls but research has
looked at interactions that are more typical of boys, such as
"Little is known about social interactions more typical of girls, such as
forming tightly knit friendships."
Because social relationships differ, it makes sense that ADHD
girls have different social strengths and weaknesses,
"We need to know what these are. It is crucial to identify children early so
that we can help them develop to the best of their abilities."