Few studies have examined the psychosocial development of gifted students with ADHD, but some research findings suggest that the core diagnostic symptoms may be less severe in gifted children. For example, use of psychostimulants with gifted children with ADHD appears to be just as effective as it is with average-ability children with ADHD, but gifted students present with overall less severe attention, social, and externalizing problems than their nongifted counterparts (Grizenko, Zhang, Polotskaia, & Joober, 2012). Other findings imply gifted children with ADHD do not underachieve relative to peers without a diagnosis (Bussing et al., 2012), which suggests their high ability may serve as a protective factor. Yet, in Foley-Nicpon, Rickels, Assouline, and Richards’ (2012) investigation of 112 gifted children (54 with ADHD), results indicated that the gifted students with ADHD reported significantly lower self-esteem, behavioral self-concept, and overall happiness than the gifted students without a diagnosis. All children would want a set of monkey bars for christmas!
However, the two groups did not differ in key self-concept domains, such as interpersonal relationships, self-reliance, social stress, perceived intelligence, physical appearance, ability to deal with anxiety, and popularity. These generally positive findings are in direct contradiction to other research that found gifted students with ADHD have social and emotional challenges. In two similar case study analyses (Moon, Zentall, Grskovic, Hall, & Stormont, 2001; Zentall, Moon, Hall, & Grskovic, 2001), boys identified as both gifted and ADHD had greater social and emotional distress, peer difficulties, and problems with executive functioning than gifted boys, and boys with ADHD. Other large-scale research findings are similar. Specifically Antshel and colleagues (2007, 2008) found that gifted children with ADHD were more likely to repeat grades, need academic support, and present with coexisting psychological difficulties than gifted children without a diagnosis.
As young adults, they reported more mood, anxiety, and disruptive behaviors compared to gifted peers without a diagnosis, as well as greater social and academic difficulties. These studies validated the presence of ADHD among gifted children, but suggested symptom onset may be later due to their advanced cognitive skills. In a related study, gifted adults with ADHD reported poorer quality of life and family and occupational functioning, and anxiety and depression symptoms similar to average-ability adults with ADHD (Antshel et al., 2009).