Do boys and girls show the same signs of ADHD?

By Mark J. Griffin, PhD

Question:

Do signs of ADHD look different in boys and girls? Or do they have the same ADHD symptoms?

Answer:

Girls and boys do tend to show different signs of ADHD. It varies from child to child, of course. But boys with ADHD are more likely to be hyperactive and struggle with self-control. They’re more likely to act out in school and behave in ways that are tough for teachers to ignore.

Girls with ADHD, on the other hand, tend to adapt better in school. They’re less likely than boys to blurt things out in class or to shove the kid next to them.

Girls with ADHD might get noticed in school for being a little squirmy or overly chatty. But teachers might chalk this up to immaturity rather than to ADHD. Girls who are hyperactive might get described as overly emotional or “sensitive.” They might also seem more distracted or daydreamy.

All these behaviors are signs of ADHD. But people react to them in different ways. Teachers and families may be more accepting of the signs girls often show. Or they may not even notice the signs.

This helps explain why boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls are. In fact, many girls never get diagnosed at all. Research indicates that up to 75 percent of girls with attention problems are undiagnosed.

Since girls often show different signs of ADHD than boys do, it’s important to know about the different ways kids can act out and which of these behaviors tend to get overlooked. That awareness can help girls with ADHD get the help they need sooner.


Learn more about the different ways ADHD can affect a child’s daily life. And read more about why kids might have trouble focusing.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Mark J. Griffin, PhD was the founding headmaster of Eagle Hill School, a school for children with specific learning disabilities.