A.D.D. is not necessarily milder in girls, but it can be different. Boys with unrecognized and untreated A.D.D., especially if they are impulsive and
overactive and also have learning difficulties and family problems, tend to show
antisocial behavior and are at risk for later substance abuse. Girls with
untreated A.D.D. tend to show more emotional problems, such as anxiety and
More boys than girls are diagnosed with A.D.H.D. (A.D.D. with the
hyperactive component). Some studies quote ratios as high as 6:1. A good
estimate is that boys with A.D.H.D. outnumber girls 3:1. But we believe these
figures are misleading. A.D.D. traits are often overlooked in many children who
are not hyperactive, especially girls.
Girls with A.D.D. are more eager to please and less likely to be disruptive,
so their difficulties may not be so readily noticed. Their A.D.D. problems show
themselves as anxiety and learning or cognitive problems. Boys with a high level
of activity may sometimes be incorrectly identified as having A.D.D.
Hyperactivity tends to lessen in the teen years, so the incidence of
A.D.H.D. becomes less. In an Ontario, Canada, population survey, about 9 percent
of boys and 3 percent of girls between the ages of six to eleven had A.D.H.D.,
but these rates dropped to about 3 percent of males and 1.5 percent of females
in the teen years. The ratio of males to females characterized as having A.D.D.
without hyperactivity, in this study, was more even and stayed at about 1.4
percent for children and teens. The rate of diagnosis evens out in adulthood,
when the number of males and females with A.D.D. is similar.
Girls tend to stick with a task longer than boys. Girls show a greater
preference for social interaction, whereas boys are more interested in objects
and action, such as playing with blocks and trucks. Boys pay more attention to
environmental sounds, such as fire engines and loud noises in the hall; girls
are more sensitive to verbal sounds of classmates and teachers.
Boys are likely to act out in school, becoming either the class discipline
problem or the class clown. Girls, on the other hand, are less impulsive and
more likely to be "spacey" and daydreamers.
In general, girls adapt more easily to the traditional classroom setting.
They find it easier to sit still and listen to a teacher. Boys are generally
more distractible, restless, and unable to selectively filter out competing
influences in the classroom.
In some respects, boys enter school with a disadvantage, since the
traditional classroom and mode of teaching is usually more geared toward the
female gender and is usually run by female teachers. This may partially explain
why children with A.D.D. do better when they get a male teacher (male teachers
usually talk less). Still, as one wise mother summed it all up, "I'm not going
to let him grow up being rowdy and disruptive just because of his gender."
Fathers tend to be more tolerant of their child's hyperactive behavior.
Perhaps this is because the father can see himself more easily in his child.
Fathers, especially those who do not spend a lot of time with their child (and
when they do it's all fun and games), tend to overlook the annoying parts of the
Mothers are more likely to seek treatment and persevere with it. Fathers are
more likely to reject drug treatment and discount the value and necessity of
other management techniques. In some ways the parents' different gender
perspectives on A.D.D. are helpful and lead to a balance; you do not want to
make the child a behavioral and educational project, but you do want to get him
the help he needs.
A.D.D. management is a family enterprise, and it succeeds
best when mother, father, and child all work together as a team.