Category: ADHD - Adult
Adults with ADHD are more likely than those without ADHD to use maladaptive conflict resolution strategies with intimate partners (Canu et al., 2014). Aside from initial evidence of effective couples’ therapy for young adults with ADHD (e.g., Wymbs & Molina, 2015), little is known about the mechanisms that may need to be targeted to improve conflict resolution behavior and relationship satisfaction in couples affected by ADHD. There is preliminary evidence that symptoms of ADHD are positively associated with maladaptive coping strategies within romantic relationships (Overbey et al., 2011) and that increased use of maladaptive coping strategies mediates the association between ADHD and higher levels of intimate partner violence (Dawson et al., 2015; Wymbs & Dawson, 2015). The current study was designed to extend prior research by examining specific coping strategies as mechanisms explaining greater maladaptive and less adaptive conflict resolution strategies and relational satisfaction in young couples with ADHD.
Sixty-one heterosexual couples (M age = 20.3; 92.4% white; 36.9% ADHD diagnosis) completed measures of ADHD symptoms (CAARS; Conners et al., 1999), coping strategies (B-COPE; Carver et al., 1997), and relational satisfaction (DASS; Hunsley et al., 1995). They also participated in a 15-minute conflict resolution task, which was coded for negative and positive conflict resolution strategies (Kline et al., 2004). Greater symptoms of ADHD were significantly associated with increased use of denial [t(60)=4.72; p < .001] and self-blame [t(60)=3.74; p < .001]. Denial and self-blame demonstrated significant indirect effects for all three outcomes assessed, which varied in direction. Both denial (Effect = -.10; 95% CI: -.27, -.002) and self-blame (Effect = -.08; 95% CI: -.34, -.05) helped to explain when individuals with more ADHD symptoms demonstrated less relationship satisfaction; however, they had opposing roles in explaining conflict resolution strategies. Greater use of denial explained when ADHD symptoms were associated with less positive (Effect = -.09; 95% CI: -.19, -.02) and more negative conflict resolution strategies (Effect = -.12; 95% CI: .02, .23). Whereas, greater use of self-blame helped explain when ADHD symptoms were associated with more positive (Effect = .06; 95% CI: .02, .12) and less negative (Effect = -.05; 95% CI: -.03, -.01) conflict resolution strategies. Thus, the same coping strategies vary in their explanation of relationship satisfaction versus conflict resolution behavior in intimate partner disagreements. This finding informs our understanding of the mechanisms underlying relational impairment in adults with ADHD and has important implications for the development of interventions.