Are There Character Strengths Associated With Adult ADHD?: Comparison of ADHD Adults and Controls on the VIA Inventory of Strengths.
Ramsay, J. R., Giwerc, D., McGrath, R. E., & Niemiec, R. (2016, January 15).
Background: On the one hand, it is well documented that a lifetime diagnosis of ADHD is associated with many life impairments. On the other hand, there has been the suggestion in some popular outlets that there are “gifts” associated with ADHD, such as increased creativity. In order to examine the question of whether there are strengths associated with ADHD, the VIA Inventory of Strengths (VIA), a self-report inventory that is commonly used in Positive Psychology, was administered to a group of self-identified adults with ADHD (n=99) and a control group of non-ADHD adults (n=54). The normative database for the VIA (n=479,367) provided a third group for comparison.
Methods: Participants were recruited from the database of an ADHD Coaching training program and from links to the VIA survey on social media sites.
The VIA is a 120-item inventory comprised of 24 different character strengths. It was predicted that the non-ADHD group would score significantly higher than the ADHD on character strengths most indicative of intact self-control: Self-Regulation, Perseverance, and Prudence. Based on the “gift” view of ADHD, it was predicted that the ADHD group would score significantly higher than the non-ADHD group on character strengths most associated with creativity and “big picture” thinking: Creativity, Curiosity, and Kindness.
Results: The overall ANOVA for 20 of the 24 VIA character strengths was statistically significant (p < .05). Post hoc comparisons of each of these 20 groups using Tukey’s Studentized Range Test were performed. As predicted, the non-ADHD group scored significantly higher than the ADHD group on the character strengths associated with intact self-control, with large effects sizes for Perseverance and Prudence, and a moderate effect size for Self-Regulation. Conversely, the hypothesis that the ADHD group would score higher than the ADHD group on character strengths associated with creativity and “big picture” thinking was not supported, with there being no significant group differences on Creativity, Curiosity, or Kindness.
An interesting result was that the non-ADHD group scored significantly higher than the ADHD group on the character strength of Hope.
Conclusions: The notion that there are “gfits” associated with ADHD were not supported by this study as measured by the self-report VIA. The ADHD group scored low on domains associated with self-regulation, consistent with the common difficulties reported by ADHD adults. Combined with the finding of a low score on Hope, these characteristic difficulties associated with ADHD likely undermine the pursuit and expression of potential areas of competency or skills by ADHD adults that could be fostered in treatment.