Date of Award

Spring 2005

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Michelle D Leichtman


Research on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has indicated that diagnosed children show considerable memory deficits. The majority of tasks that have supported such deficits have focused on working memory and school/semantic-related abilities. Although there is a small body of literature related to long-term memory in children with ADHD, no studies appear to focus on long-term episodic memory, including personal-event memory. This is the case despite clinical and anecdotal evidence suggesting that children with ADHD might show enhanced long-term episodic memory abilities in comparison to those without.

Twenty-one children with ADHD (5 females and 16 males) and 31 children without ADHD (14 females and 17 males) in the 4th--8 th grades (mean age 12.1 years) were administered five memory tasks assessing short-term, working memory and long-term episodic memory. Additionally, one parent for each child completed a 22-item questionnaire assessing their child's memory abilities.

The following main questions were addressed: (1) do children with ADHD exhibit superior long-term episodic memory performance when compared with controls, (2) among ADHD children, is performance on long-term episodic memory tasks superior to performance on short-term working memory tasks, and (3) how do parents perceive their child's memory abilities?

Although parents rated children with ADHD as having poor memory abilities for a number of factors, parents believed their children with ADHD had the best memories in the family for past experiences. Consistent with this profile, children with ADHD showed deficits in working memory compared to controls but showed equal or enhanced performance on long-term episodic tasks. When discussing a special-event in their life, children with ADHD provided lengthier and more descriptive narratives.

These results provide the first empirical support for anecdotal evidence suggesting children with ADHD have more elaborate episodic memory ability compared to controls. This is the first study to document strengths in children with ADHD, where weaknesses have always been the focus. Although replication is needed, these results may shed some light on the memory processes of children with ADHD and may be used to help these children succeed both in and out of the classroom. Future directions and limitations are discussed.