The fact that many more boys than girls are diagnosed with ADHD—at a ratio of approximately 2 to 1 or 3 to 1—has led to the mistaken belief among many parents and teachers that ADHD is a “boys’ disorder” that rarely occurs in girls. In fact, more girls than boys qualify for the diagnosis of ADHD, but more girls remain undiagnosed because they have the inattentive type of ADHD, and tend to be overlooked entirely or do not attract attention until they are older. This means that girls are less likely to be referred for evaluation and to receive the help they need. Even when diagnosis and treatment have been obtained, girls with ADHD are further disadvantaged by the fact that most ADHD research to date has focused on boys. Little is known about potential differences between the genders in the development of the condition over time or response to medication and other forms of treatment. Compared with other girls, girls with ADHD experience more depression, anxiety, distress, poor teacher relationships, stress, external locus of control (the feeling that “the winds of fate” control their destiny instead of themselves), and impaired academics. Compared with boys with ADHD, girls with ADHD experience more difficulties from feeling anxious, distressed, or depressed, and less of a feeling that they can take control in solving problems that they face.
If your daughter has been referred for evaluation for ADHD, or if you suspect that she may have the condition, it is important not to discount the possibility just because she is female. Teachers tend to under-refer girls for evaluation, even when their symptoms are the same as boys’, and girls are less likely than boys to receive sufficient medical treatment once they have been diagnosed. Be aware that some sociocultural beliefs about girls (that they tend to daydream, that they just are not interested in academics) may mask a real problem in your child’s ability to function. If your daughter is diagnosed with ADHD, ask the pediatrician to keep you updated on ongoing research about the development of ADHD in girls, the particular challenges girls with ADHD are likely to meet, and the different ways in which they may respond to various forms of treatment