ADHD News & Research

Study: Children with ADHD More Likely to Bully — and to Be Bullied

Children with ADHD are more likely than their neurotypical peers to be the bully, the victim of bullying, or both, according to a new study.

November 23, 2020

School-aged children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) demonstrated a significant risk (3 to 17 times greater than that of their neurotypical peers) for being a bully, being a victim of bullying, or both, according to a study from the Journal of Attention Disorders.1 The link between increased rates of bullying and neurodevelopmental disorders has been previously observed among children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and learning disabilities (LD).2

Researchers conducted secondary data analysis of 199 childhood ADHD cases and 287 non-ADHD referents — all of whom answered a psychosocial questionnaire regarding peer encounters during elementary, middle, or high school where they classified themselves as “bully,” “victim,” “neither,” or “both.”

After adjusting for gender, children with ADHD were found to be 3.7 times more likely to be classified as victims only of bullying, compared to their neurotypical peers. They were 17.71 times more likely to be classified as both bullies and victims. And they were 8.17 times more likely to be classified as bullies only. Roughly 62% of victim-bullies and 64% of bullies had both childhood ADHD and other psychiatric disorders, versus 38.4% of victims-only and 17.3% of those classified as “neither.” Researchers found that “self-reporting history of being a bully or reactive victim-bully was far less common,” “but these 27 individuals were disproportionately represented by participants with ADHD and one or more co-occurring psychiatric disorder.”

Researchers concluded that bullying should be considered a serious lifetime consequence of ADHD, fitting with existing literature showing a relationship between bullying and ADHD. Additionally, researchers suggested that presence of a comorbid psychiatric disorder dramatically increased the severity of this association. These findings contribute to the need for guidelines on the assessment and management of “complex ADHD,” or ADHD that co-occurs with one or more psychiatric conditions.

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1Fogler JM, Weaver AL, Katusic S, Voigt RG, Barbaresi WJ. Recalled Experiences of Bullying and Victimization in a Longitudinal, Population-Based Birth Cohort: The Influence of ADHD and Co-Occurring Psychiatric Disorder. Journal of Attention Disorders. November 2020. doi:10.1177/1087054720969981

2Anderson, C. (2014). IAN Research Report: Bullying and Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Interactive Autism Network.

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