The Connection Between ADHD and Bullying

Posted February 4, 2008 by

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The February issue of Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology features a study that says kids with ADHD are more likely to be bullied at school–or to actually be bullies themselves.

Researchers followed 577 Swedish fourth graders for one year, with nearly 10 percent of the boys and 1.6 percent of the girls being diagnosed with ADHD. Kids with the disorder were 4 times as likely to be bullies, and 10 times as likely as their peers to be picked on at school–even before the ADHD was diagnosed.

It’s true that kids with the impulsive or combined type of AD/HD are more likely to be the bully, but not always. The inattentive types are prime targets for being bullied, though the other two types may also find themselves on the receiving end. Impulsivity and poor attention makes it difficult for kids to learn social skills and anger management which often also leads to low self-esteem. While most kids pick-up these skills on their own, kids with AD/HD need specific instruction and practice. This is why it is so important for kids to receive psychological & behavioral interventions as a key component of their treatment program.


Dr Robert Myers is a child psychologist with more than 25 years of experience working with children and adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and learning disabilities and is the creator of the Total Focus Program. Dr Myers is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at UC Irvine School of Medicine. "Dr Bob" has provided practical information for parents as a radio talk show host and as editor of Child Development Institute's website, which reaches 3 million parents each year. Dr. Myers earned his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.

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  1. toryjoe1109 Report

    My son is bullied. As I went to the school about it, they in turn started telling me about my son’s behavior. My son is not aggressive at all. At one point I went to the school very upset because my son got punched for being out of his seat. The teacher told him that if he was doing what he was supposed to be doing, this would not have happened. I went to the principal, she backed her teachers. So I had to go way above her head for anything to be done. He is in Jiujitsu now. He enjoys it but his instructor feels he has a very low self esteem. So we are working on that.

  2. felcin30 Report

    For Janet,

    I, too have an ADHD child who is being verbally bullied almost daily. She gets into trouble often because she is caught “responding” while the bullies are flying under the radar. I have to say, while I think response #1 is a good one, I think responses #2 and 3 can be inflammatory. We are trying to teach our children that calling names is mean and inappropriate, but telling them to call someone a “jerk” is really no different. Saying, “I don’t like you either”, in my opinion, can also be counterproductive. Instead, my advice for my 7th grade daughter is to say, “that’s ok, it doesn’t bother me”. Or, “whatever” and give a look of confusion or indifference. I have explained to her that as soon as the bullies are no longer getting the reaction they are looking for and will become bored of bothering her. I am not saying this is an easy thing. It takes a lot of self control and tongue biting, but if she believes that it doesn’t matter, it will be easier to give off that vibe. Meanwhile, while she is at home, I work hard to empower her, set good examples, and lift her up so she is a stronger person when I am not around. Building up her self esteem has seemed to help.

  3. Lauri Report

    I see that often the bully gets all the attention for his abusive behavior, while my son is left ignored with no attention at all. A better intervention for a group of kids to see would be the adult first showing their esteem for my son and making it clear that his wellbeing is the first consideration. Then the bully can be dealt with in a way that does not cause him to be the leader or hero. After all who are kids going to side with? The victim or the one who commands the most attention?

  4. Eve Report

    Good Luck, Bullying has made my son rude, sarcastic & a loner. He eats lunch alone, and has almost 0 friends. He’s in 8th gr now and has had to deal with ridicule for about 3 years or more. I’ve talked to his teahcers, counselor, etc. He gets blamed alot when he’s constantly egged on and name-called. I’m pulling him out of public schools at the end of this year and putting him in a small Christian school for H.S.

  5. janet Report

    My son, a 5th grader, has long been the target of bullying and teasing (its the same thing to me). The schools have a 0 tolerance for aggression and he’s been suspended for striking back. Following school’s directions and telling the teacher/staff just makes it worse since then he’s a “snitch”. I recently began memorizing and role playing with him. When being bullied/teased he is to say 1)”Knock it off you are being a bully”.” “..2)”you are acting like a jerk, stop it”.” “..3)”I don’t like you either (then turn and walk away). The intent is to hold the bully/teaser accountable for their behavior without either suffering in silence or getting in trouble for impulsively reacting. What do you think?



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