The Nature of Defenses Used by School-Aged Children with ADHD

Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) experience intense emotions that impact their behavior; their world is as overwhelming as it is tumultuous. Due to the dominant neurobiological understanding of the disorder, little research has considered this population from a psychodynamic perspective. My dissertation seeks to develop a more nuanced clinical picture of children with this disorder by examining the relationship between their emotional dysregulation and their use of defense mechanisms—the unconscious mental processes that guard against strong emotions. If children with ADHD are found to exhibit more immature defense use than peers without the disorder, the finding would lend credence to a psychodynamic conception of ADHD, and have implications for the development of non-psychopharmacological interventions.