Relationship Maintenance in Couples with a Partner Who Has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Date of Award


Degree Name



Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Kimberly Gorgens

First Committee Member

William W. Dodson

Second Committee Member

Galena K. Rhoades


Couples therapy; Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults


The body of research on the relationship functioning of adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is relatively small; the aim of the present study is to advance our understanding of this topic. It has been estimated that three to ten percent of children and one to five percent of adults have impairing symptoms of ADHD, which is a total of 4 million children and 4-5 million adults in the U.S. (Wender, 2000). A recent prevalence study found that approximately 4.4% of adults in the U.S. meet the criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD (Kessler et al., 2006). Children with ADHD show innate temperamental characteristics, usually inattentiveness, distractibility, impulsivity, restlessness, demandingness, hyperreactivity, low tolerance for frustration, temperoutbursts, bossiness and stubbornness, and mood lability, along with an innate proclivity for academic underachievement. It has been estimated that one- to two-thirds of children with ADHD have symptoms that continue into adulthood, and for 40-50% of these adults, these symptoms are serious enough to cause impairment in functioning (Everett & Everett, 1999; Wender, 2000). Research suggests that the majority of cases are transmitted genetically, but some may be due to exposure to environmental toxins such as lead. Consumption of excess sugar or allergies to food may exacerbate or mimic ADHD symptoms in some children, but they are not a cause of ADHD (Wender, 2000). One hypothesized cause of the symptoms associated with ADHD is a deficit in the brain's executive functioning (Barkley & Gordon, 2002). Executive functioning can be conceptualized as the ability to inhibit, organize, and plan behaviors. Barkley and Gordon (2002) define it as the abilityto self-direct and regulate behaviors toward future goals, including social behaviors and goals. Other research suggests that executive functioning consists of inhibition, control of interference, verbal and nonverbal working memory, emotional regulation, attention, verbal fluency, visual scanning, and processing speed. Studies have shown impairments in these areas among adults with ADHD (Barkley & Gordon, 2002; Barkley, Murphy & Kwasnik, 1996; Goldstein, 2002).


Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


41 pages

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