Daily activity levels of boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and boys with conduct disorder

Brian Healy, Fordham University


The purpose of the present research was to investigate the validity of the behavioral construct of hyperactivity/motor excess in the differential diagnosis of ADHD and CD. Although research has consistently demonstrated a hyperactivity factor, research has been inconclusive in establishing that the central characteristic of excessive motor activity differentiates ADHD children from other clinical groups, Conduct Disorder (CD) in particular. It was further intended to determine if boys who are described as hyperactive are measurably more active than conduct-disordered boys who are not described as hyperactive. The present study intended to help to answer the question of whether motor excess distinguishes "hyperactive" from conduct-disordered boys. Motor activity of 53 10- to 15-year-old behaviorally disturbed boys in residential treatment was monitored continuously over a 2-week period with step counters. Differences between ADHD, CD and control groups were examined in regard to activity, CBCL ratings, and sociometric status. Activity measurements were compared to ADDES (Attention Deficit Disorders Evaluation Scale) scores, CPT (Continuous Performance Test) scores, CBCL ratings, and sociometric status. Hyperactivity was not found to be descriptive of ADHD in comparison to CD and diagnosed controls. CD children were more active and less attentive than expected. Activity levels correlated significantly with CPT commission errors and the most active children tended to show more attention problems. No significant relationship was found between the rating scales and measured activity. In regard to sociometric status, no differences were found between groups and there was no relationship between those scores and CPT inattention. The rating scales and sociometric scores were, however, found to correlate. Results suggesting overlap of ADHD and CD symptomatology are discussed in regard to common causal factors, ADHD as a precursor to conduct disorder, and issues related to misdiagnosis. The suggestion of a relationship between activity and cognitive impulsivity is discussed in regard to the possibility of common disinhibitory processes. Clinical applications of the study and future research directions are suggested.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Behaviorial sciences|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Healy, Brian, "Daily activity levels of boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and boys with conduct disorder" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9613854.