Updated: Dec 1, 2022
By Izabella Helbin
Reading time 3 minutes ⏰
What are the traits of ADHD and what focus points should you look out for those with ADHD?
It is no secret that most research on ADHD is based on samples of exclusively boys. Because of this, it is harder to understand the traits of distinctly neurodiverse females. Although, as we begin to dive into the research's roots deeply, we see that girls with ADHD display different subtypes and traits of ADHD than boys do. Girls with ADHD show an elevated amount of brain activity and impairment with planning. The two most well-known behavioural traits of ADHD are inattentiveness and hyperactivity/impulsiveness. Many girls diagnosed with ADHD most likely exhibit both categories of traits, although this may not always be the case. For example, 2-3 girls out of 10 with ADHD have issues concentrating and focusing, but not with hyperactiveness (O'Brien et al. 2010). This form of ADHD is also known as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and is less commonly diagnosed because it is harder to find distinct classifiable traits. Therefore, because girls typically only display forms of inattentiveness and not hyperactivity, making their behavioural traits of ADHD less obvious, this results in a wide underdiagnosis of girls who genuinely experience ADHD. This also creates an under-researched community of girls who experience ADHD.
Traits of ADHD significantly affect the social lives of young girls in their teen years. Mothers and teachers noticed that girls with ADHD were typically less relationally aggressive than non-ADHD female control groups, although they experience more socially awkward interactions in their everyday life. These traits even extend to leisurely activities, where it was studied that girls with ADHD who play video computer games were more directly aggressive, more socially awkward and demonstrated less skilled behaviours than other control groups (Ohan and Johnston, 2007). Overall, results display that young girls with ADHD demonstrate socially hindering behaviours.
Positive self-illusions are a form of false positive self-impressions that maintain self-esteem, most times in the short term. Studies done by abnormal child psychologists in 2011 showed that girls with ADHD overestimated their self-competence significantly more than female control groups (Ohan and Johnston, 2011). The identical girls diagnosed with ADHD also had more uncooperative and hostile behaviours or minor depressive traits. These self overestimations were also related to higher rates of failure to cope with social rules and lower rates of adjustment and conformation to authorial figures. These studies showed that girls with ADHD typically presented themselves in overly bright and self-protective light (Ohan and Johnston, 2011).
Traits of ADHD affect girls' interactions with their parents, affecting how parents respond to this behaviour. Female girls with ADHD more commonly experience increased negative interactions with their parents. This includes being more negative and defiant, less compliant and cooperative, and more dependent on their mother. Research based on age-related traits revealed that the cognitive mental control of young girls based on their memory increases over their teen years (DeRonda et al., 2021). Young girls who experience poor responses to ADHD diagnosis based on self-consciousness during childhood later display inattentiveness traits carrying on into their adolescent years. These results show that girls with ADHD display different forms of cognitive control in their development, and ageing and their self-reflection in childhood are essential factors of ADHD portrayed in their adolescence (Bauermeister et al. 2007). Looking at studies and research demonstrating that genders may play a role in the subtypes and traits of ADHD, it is hopeful that the underdiagnosis of young females with ADHD will soon be not overshadowed.
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Ohan, J-L. and Johnston, C. Positive Illusions of Social Competence in Girls with and Without ADHD. JACP. (2011),
DeRonda, A., Zhao, Y., Seymour, K-E., et al. Distinct Patterns of Impaired Cognitive Control Among Boys And Girls with ADHD Across Development. RCAP. (2021),
Bauermeister, J-J., Shrout, P-E., Cháves, L., et al. ADHD and gender: are risks and sequela of ADHD the same for boys and girls? JCPP. (2007),
O’Brien, J-W., Dowell, L-R., Mostofsky, S-H., et al. Neuropsychological Profile of Executive Function in Girls with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. ACN. (2010),