Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are potentially more exposed to reproaches, say researchers in a study that aimed to find the effect of punishment in children with the disorder.
Children with ADHD often get into trouble with their parents, teachers and friends, for their elevated activity levels, impulsive actions and difficulty in focusing.
The findings showed that children with ADHD try to avoid punishment more often over time than other children without the disorder.
On the other hand, for children without the disorder, punishment seemed to be less distractive as they keep their focus on winning.
"If a child with ADHD is reluctant in doing a task, or if the child gives up easily, it might be important for the parent or the teacher to check if the task has the appropriate balance of reward and punishment," said Gail Tripp, Professor at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), in Japan.
"The task may not have punishment built in, rather the effort needed to do the task might be perceived as punishing by the child," Tripp added.
For children without ADHD, the more effortful a task is, the more incentives a child is going to need to keep persisting.
"Simple but frequent rewards, such as smiles or words of encouragements, can help children with ADHD to stay on the task," Tripp suggested.
The same could be said for children without the disorder, but this is especially important for children with ADHD, as they seem more sensitive to repeated experiences of punishment or failure, and are more likely to miss opportunities for success, the researchers said.
For the study, a team of researchers involved 210 children from Japan and New Zealand. Out of these, 145 were diagnosed with ADHD.
Both groups of children had to chose between playing two simultaneously available computer-based games that were engaging but still incorporated an element of punishment.
In both games, when a child won, the computer gave him or her 10 points and played a simple animation. But when a child lost, the computer took away five points and played a laughing sound.
Over time, the children with ADHD found losing points and the laughter more punishing than children without the disorder. They were also much less likely to play the more punishing game, the researchers concluded.
The results are published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
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