Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 407-426

First online:

Effects of background anger, provocation, and methylphenidate on emotional arousal and aggressive responding in attention-deficit hyperactivity disordered boys with and without concurrent aggressiveness

  • William E. PelhamAffiliated withWestern Psychiatric Institute and Clinic
  • , Richard MilichAffiliated withUniversity of Kentucky
  • , E. Mark CummingsAffiliated withWest Virginia University
  • , Debra A. MurphyAffiliated withMedical College of Wisconsin Milwaukee
  • , Elizabeth A. SchaughencyAffiliated withUniversity of Oregon
  • , Andrew R. GreinerAffiliated withWestern Psychiatric Institute and Clinic

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We investigated the effects of background anger, provocation, and methylphenidate on emotional, physiological, and behavioral responding in children with attentiondeficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with and without concurrent aggression. Our study revealed that ADHD boys showed more emotional and physiological distress when exposed to an interaction in which an administrator chastised each boy's favorite counselor, compared to a friendly interaction between the two adults. The background anger manipulation did not affect the aggressive behavior of the boys against an opponent in an aggressive game. High-aggressive (HA) ADHD boys were more likely to respond to provocation with aggression than low-aggressive (LA) ADHD boys, but only LA boys showed increased physiological reactivity with increasing provocation. Methylphenidate resulted in increased heart rates under all conditions and did not interact with any of the other findings.