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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Examining the Relationship Between Ostracism and ADHD


Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity (Cincinnati Children’s, 2013). Much of ADHD research focuses on the potential social consequences of ADHD such as ostracism. More detailed research goes on to examine the impact of ostracism on affect, such as increased depression and anxiety among ostracized individuals. However, recent ostracism research indicates that feelingsof social exclusion may cause a decline in performance on cognitive and behavioral measures. I propose that if ostracism can cause cognitive and behavioral patterns that resemble those of ADHD, then it is possible that prolonged ostracism (especially early in life) can exacerbate risk for developing ADHD. Furthermore, it is plausible that individuals who are ostracized, as a consequence of ADHD may not only experience negative emotions, but may also experience compromised cognitive function. Thus while the present view of the relationship between ADHD and ostracism is one directional: ADHD leads to ostracism (ADHD  ostracism), I propose that the relationship between ADHD and ostracism might be reciprocal: ostracism causes ADHD, thus causing further ostracism, further increasing ADHD-related cognitive and behavioral deficits (ADHD  ostracism). This review surveys the literature and links cognitive and behavioral characteristics that ADHD and the consequences of social exclusion share.

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