Episodic (i.e., event) memory and suggestibility (i.e., the extent to which memory and reporting of events can be influenced by cognitive and social factors) are critical to the accurate reporting of past events. The proposed project represents the first study to address the extent to which children's ability to provide accurate and detailed accounts of rich, personally-experienced events when interviewed is altered among children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
The aims of the proposed research are (1) to compare the episodic memory and suggestibility of ADHD children and typically-developing (TD) children of the same age, and (2) to investigate the cognitive processes underlying ADHD children's episodic memory and suggestibility. There are theoretical and practical reasons to address these aims. Theoretically, we know virtually nothing about children with ADHD's event memory or their suggestibility, yet core deficit processes in ADHD (working memory and inhibitory control) suggest that differences between ADHD and TD children will emerge. Practically, research demonstrates that children with ADHD are at greater risk for child maltreatment and exposure to stressful family environments than their TD peers. Furthermore, educators, medical practitioners, and professionals investigating child abuse will benefit from a more complete understanding of ADHD children's cognitive and memory characteristics because all need to question children appropriately in order to intervene effectively. To advance theory and address these practical concerns, the proposed research will examine the episodic memory and suggestibility of 60 7- to 8-year-old ADHD and TD children. Based on well-standardized procedures, children will experience a rich, interactive event (a safety skills demonstration) and be interviewed following a 1-week delay using an empirically-based investigative interview protocol designed for children. Detailed coding of children's interviews wil allow us to examine multiple aspects of episodic memory and suggestibility (e.g., amount, accuracy, and coherence of reports; susceptibility to suggestive questions). Working memory and inhibitory control measures will be included to test potential cognitive mechanisms underlying differences between ADHD and TD children. Laboratory analogue studies examining children's memory and suggestibility for objectively- verifiable events are crucial because they allow for the examination of accuracy and completeness and are thus uniquely important for individuals who question children in legal and medical contexts where accuracy is critical.
There are numerous contexts (e.g., legal, medical) in which it is critically important for adults to obtain accurate and detailed information from children, including those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) who are at disproportionate risk for child maltreatment and exposure to stressful family environments. However, children with ADHD have deficits in areas which may make recounting their experiences in an accurate, complete, and coherent manner more difficult than for typically-developing children. The proposed research will compare children with ADHD and typically-developing children's memory reports of a staged laboratory event and has implications for developing effective strategies for interviewing children with ADHD.