Effects of Behavioral and Pharmacological Therapies on Peer Reinforcement of Deviancy in Children With ADHD-Only, ADHD and Conduct Problems, and Controls

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Objective: This study compared the unique and combined effects of evidence-based treatments for ADHD—stimulant medication and behavior modification—on children’s rates of reinforcement for deviant peer behavior (RDPB). Method: Using a within-subjects design, 222 elementary school-age children attending a summer treatment program, including 151 children with ADHD (127 male), with and without comorbid conduct problems, and 71 control children (57 male), received varying combinations of behavior modification (no, low-intensity, and high-intensity) and methylphenidate (placebo, 0.15 mg/kg, 0.30 mg/kg, and 0.60 mg/kg). RDPB was measured through direct observation and compared across all behavior modification and medication conditions. Results: Children with ADHD reinforced the deviant behavior of their peers at a significantly higher rate than control children in the absence of either intervention. However, that difference largely disappeared in the presence of both behavior modification and medication. Both low and high-intensity behavior modification, as well as medium (0.30 mg/kg) and high (0.60 mg/kg) doses of methylphenidate, significantly reduced the rate of ADHD children’s RDPB to levels similar to the control group. Conclusions: Results indicate that although untreated children with ADHD do engage in RDPB at a greater rate than their non-ADHD peers, existing evidence-based interventions can substantially decrease the presence of RDPB, thereby limiting potential iatrogenic effects in group-based treatment settings. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)