Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 7, pp 2328–2342 | Cite as

Mother’s Observations of Biased Self-Perceptions in Children with ADHD

  • Sarah A. Fefer
  • Julia D. McQuade
  • Caitlin Virga
  • Autumn Johnson
  • Kayla Gordon
  • Maria Santiago-Rosario
  • Erik Reinbergs
  • Jessica Porter
Original Paper


A large body of research suggests that children with ADHD tend to overestimate their functioning across multiple domains. This overestimation, termed a positive illusory bias (PIB), is most often examined in controlled research settings in which child ratings are compared to ratings from an adult. We sought to advance our understanding of how a PIB presents in daily life for children with ADHD by using mixed methodology to assess mothers’ (N = 12) perceptions of their child’s self-awareness. Information was gathered from mothers of children with ADHD using surveys and an interview protocol. A grounded theory approach was used to identify themes that emerged through interview data and discrepancy methodology to confirm the presence of the PIB. Qualitative and quantitative data suggested that children with ADHD displayed limited self-awareness, with mothers reporting overestimation of competence across domains. However, some children were reported to be aware of their areas of difficulty, with variability in self-awareness based on domain, feedback, and setting. Mothers reported that children responded to evidence of their impairment both with apathy and frustration. Results help to clarify past evidence of heterogeneity in PIB levels and provide examples of how limited self-awareness and denial of difficulties are manifested in the family context for children with ADHD, according to mother’s observations. These results demonstrate the value of using mixed methodology to better understand the self-perceptions of children with ADHD in their daily lives.


Positive illusory bias ADHD Parent perceptions Mixed methods Self-awareness 


Author Contributions

S.F.: designed and carried out the study, trained team members in data collection and analysis procedures, led qualitative data analysis, and collaboratively wrote the paper. J.M.: collaborated with all aspects of carrying out and writing the study, collected quantitative data. C.V.: collaborated on the design and writing of the study, organized qualitative analysis. A.J.: collaborated on data collection, analysis, and writing of method/results. K.G.: collaborated on data collection, analysis, and writing of methods/results. M.S.R.: collaborated on data analysis and writing of results. E.R.: collaborated on data analysis and writing of results. J.P.: collaborated on data collection and analysis.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval was obtained from Amherst College.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah A. Fefer
    • 1
  • Julia D. McQuade
    • 2
  • Caitlin Virga
    • 1
  • Autumn Johnson
    • 1
  • Kayla Gordon
    • 1
  • Maria Santiago-Rosario
    • 1
  • Erik Reinbergs
    • 1
  • Jessica Porter
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Student DevelopmentUniversity Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Amherst CollegeAmherstUSA

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