Biopsychosocial Correlates of the Subjective Well-Being and College Adjustment of Students with Diagnosed AD/HD

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For many years, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) was considered a disorder of childhood that was outgrown in adolescence and adulthood. Follow-up studies of children over the past twenty years, however, have consistently demonstrated that up to 80% of children with diagnosed AD/HD in childhood continue to display the symptoms to a significant degree in adolescence and adulthood (Barkley & Murphy, 1998). Given this reconceptualization, there has been an increase in research on late adolescent and adult AD/HD. Such research has demonstrated the risk of negative academic and psychosocial outcomes for late adolescents and adults with AD/HD. Very little research, however, has focused on examining variables related to adjustment outcomes specifically in the AD/HD college student population. Applying a biopsychosocial framework, the primary purpose of this study was to simultaneously examine the relation of multiple biomedical and psychosocial factors to the subjective well-being and college adjustment of students with diagnosed AD/HD.

Self-report measures of current AD/HD symptom severity, psychosocial factors (e.g., college self-efficacy, self-esteem, and social support), subjective well-being, and college adjustment were completed by 80 undergraduate students at the University of Maryland with diagnosed AD/HD registered with the Learning Assistance/Disability Support Service. Results indicated that 53% of the variance in subjective well-being, and 57% of the variance in overall college adjustment were accounted for by all of the biopsychosocial variables combined. In addition, the individual biomedical and psychological factors were found to independently contribute unique and significant variance to both health status outcomes. Moreover, consistent with the hypotheses of the present study, the combined psychosocial variables were found to contribute unique and significant variance above and beyond AD/HD symptom severity, and the psychological variables (e.g., college self-efficacy and self-esteem) were found to partially mediate the relationship between social support and both health status outcomes.

This study contributes to the current literature on college students with AD/HD and demonstrates the importance of a biopsychosocial conceptualization and approach to working with students with AD/HD. Moreover, results highlight potential ways to tailor effective interventions for this population, and interesting directions for future research.