Effects of behavioral and pharmacological therapies on peer reinforcement of deviancy in children with ADHD-Only, ADHD and conduct problems, and controls

Sarah A. Helseth, Daniel A. Waschbusch, Elizabeth M. Gnagy, Adia N. Onyango, Lisa Burrows-MacLean, Gregory A. Fabiano, Erika K. Coles, Anil Chacko, Brian T. Wymbs, Kathryn S. Walker, Frances A. Wymbs, Allison Garefino, Greta M. Massetti, Jessica Robb Mazzant, Martin T. Hoffman, James G. Waxmonsky, Kristin Nichols-Lopez, William E. Pelham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: This study compared the unique and combined effects of evidence-based treatments for ADHD- stimulant medication and behavior modification-on children's rates of reinforcement for deviant peer behavior (RDPB). Method: Using a within-subjects design, 222 elementary school-age children attending a summer treatment program, including 151 children with ADHD (127 male), with and without comorbid conduct problems, and 71 control children (57 male), received varying combinations of behavior modification (no, low-intensity, and high-intensity) and methylphenidate (placebo, 0.15 mg/kg, 0.30 mg/kg, and 0.60 mg/kg). RDPB was measured through direct observation and compared across all behavior modification and medication conditions. Results: Children with ADHD reinforced the deviant behavior of their peers at a significantly higher rate than control children in the absence of either intervention. However, that difference largely disappeared in the presence of both behavior modification and medication. Both low and high-intensity behavior modification, as well as medium (0.30 mg/kg) and high (0.60 mg/kg) doses of methylphenidate, significantly reduced the rate of ADHD children's RDPB to levels similar to the control group. Conclusions: Results indicate that although untreated children with ADHD do engage in RDPB at a greater rate than their non-ADHD peers, existing evidence-based interventions can substantially decrease the presence of RDPB, thereby limiting potential iatrogenic effects in group-based treatment settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)280-292
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of consulting and clinical psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015



  • ADHD
  • deviancy training
  • peer interactions
  • treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this

Helseth, S. A., Waschbusch, D. A., Gnagy, E. M., Onyango, A. N., Burrows-MacLean, L., Fabiano, G. A., Coles, E. K., Chacko, A., Wymbs, B. T., Walker, K. S., Wymbs, F. A., Garefino, A., Massetti, G. M., Mazzant, J. R., Hoffman, M. T., Waxmonsky, J. G., Nichols-Lopez, K., & Pelham, W. E. (2015). Effects of behavioral and pharmacological therapies on peer reinforcement of deviancy in children with ADHD-Only, ADHD and conduct problems, and controls. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 83(2), 280-292. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0038505