Economically Disadvantaged Children with ADHD May Benefit from Mentoring

Although socioeconomic challenges and mental health impairments are commonly observed alongside attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities, data are lacking on possible strategies to combat this problem. In a new study, a team of researchers measured and analyzed the value of a near-peer mentoring program for young patients with ADHD or learning disabilities with the goal of promoting social-emotional well-being.

Participants were youth with ADHD or learning disabilities, who were stratified into groups based on whether they participated in the mentoring program (mentored, n = 99) or did not take part in the program (control-NM, n = 51). Non-mentored developmentally typical children without learning disabilities or ADHD were also recruited (control-TD, n = 81). All participants were evaluated pre- and post-mentoring. Participants self-reported anxiety, depression, interpersonal relations, and self-esteem.

At baseline, participants with learning disabilities or ADHD had significantly higher depression scores and lower interpersonal relations scores compared to the control-TD group. After mentoring, the mentored group presented significantly lower depression scores and higher self-esteem scores—improvements that were found to be associated with mentee-perceived mentorship quality. Meanwhile, self-esteem and interpersonal relations both significantly decreased in the control-NM group, and depression scores increased over time. All measurements in the control-TD group remained stable over time.

The authors concluded that mentoring appeared to have potential as an intervention for young patients with learning disabilities or ADHD with co-occurring socio-emotional and mental health challenges. They also added that the study “highlights the importance of strong interpersonal relationships as a protective factor.”

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