Is ADHD Mostly a Boy Thing?
Is ADHD Mostly a Boy Thing?
By Susan V. Schaefer, M.Ed., M.A.T.
The short answer is yes, boys are 2 times more likely, and in some research I read even more likely than that, to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. This statistic came up in a conversation recently and I wondered if this was borne out with our academic coaching students so I counted them. Yep, two times more male students with ADHD 4 months ago, 7 months ago, two years ago, and five years ago. Sure it fluctuated here and there, but, by and large, it has remained constant except for now. At this moment, we have 4 times more male academic coaching students diagnosed with ADHD than female students. We also have more students than ever so it is possible that as the numbers rise the gender gap widens. This is not scientific research, but it is interesting.
On the surface, it would seem that simply more boys than girls have ADHD. In actuality, the number of girls who have ADHD are about equal to the number of boys. You may wonder why there is such a huge difference in diagnosis. If you scratch the surface, and read the research, ADHD presents very differently in boys vs. girls.
“This disparity isn’t necessarily because girls are less susceptible to the disorder. Rather, it’s likely because ADHD symptoms present differently in girls. The symptoms are often more subtle and, as a result, harder to identify.” -Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Boys are more likely to have the “H” component in ADHD, hyperactivity, although it is important to remember that this is not true for all boys. Boys that are bouncing off the walls and interrupting their teacher 20 times an hour are practically screaming for an evaluation, while girls who are staring out the window playing with their hair are overlooked. Maturity may also play a role in the greater number of boys being diagnosed with ADHD. It is well documented that boys’ brains mature later than girls. It’s possible that this immaturity is driving up the ADHD diagnosis in males. I witness this regularly with my academic coaching students. In general, the boys seem eons behind girls in maturity across the board. I recently read an article citing new research that found brain development in males can be up to 10 years behind girls. Ten years!
In the book Understanding Girls With AD/HD, Dr. Kathleen Nadeau says, “Girls are less rebellious, less defiant, generally less ‘difficult’ than boys.” It also mentions that girls are more socialized to be “pleasers,” making ADHD even harder to spot. It seems there is more and more research emerging on ADHD in girls which will help close the gap and get girls the help they need.
— Susan V. Schaefer, M.Ed., M.A.T.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Academic Coaching Associates, LLC, the first company on the East Coast to combine academic and life coaching, creating an extraordinarily effective holistic approach to student achievement. With a proven record of improving academic success for students, both nationally and internationally, Sue is committed to helping students realize their academic potential and achieve their goals.
Sue is also a sought-after speaker on many educational subjects, and has published numerous articles on education and parenting. She wrote a weekly education column for Patch.com, appeared on Huffington Post Live, and the WXLM radio show to name just a few. Prior to opening Academic Coaching Associates, Sue was a classroom teacher and holds teaching certificates in both Connecticut and Illinois.
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