Cognitive Processing in Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder as Measured by the Thematic Apperception Test

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Young, William F.
Teglasi, Hedwig
The present study attempted to add to the growing body of knowledge of ADHD by using the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) to measure cognitive processing in children with ADHD. Forty-five Children between the ages of 7 and 13 were evaluated for ADHD through a semi-structured interview and behavioral rating scales. IQ, achievement, visual-motor integration tests as well as a continuous performance test were administered as part of a comprehensive evaluation. Out of the 45 children, 15 were identified as having ADHD ( clinical group), 18 had attention deficit symptoms but were below the threshold for diagnosis (sub-clinical group), and 12 were found to be ineligible. Comparisons were made between the three groups of children referred for evaluation for ADHD and a group of 15 normal-control children taken from archival data who were matched for age and gender with the clinical group. Significant differences were found between all three of the referred groups and the control group for the following four cognitive processing variables from the TAT; Perceptual Integration , Level of Abstraction, Cognitive-Experiential Integration , and Level of Associative Thinking. The three groups of children referred for evaluation did not differ from each other. Gender differences were noted in the clinical group only with girls with ADHD scoring higher on cognitive processing variables than boys with ADHD. Factor analysis of all the measures used revealed four factors; cognitive processing, behavioral performance, hyperactivity, and inattention. Exploratory analysis was conducted on 16 children from the clinical and sub-clinical groups who were retested using behavioral rating scales, the continuous performance test, and the TAT; however, the number of children retested was too few to draw conclusions from the data. These results are discussed along with issues surrounding the diagnosis of ADHD and future directions for research regarding the nature of cognitive processing in children with ADHD.