Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

Ailish Power 

BSc [Hons] Applied Psychology

Hi, I am Ailish, a soon-to-be graduate from IADT with a BSc in Applied Psychology. I have loved studying the various modules covering a variety of psychology disciplines, especially forensics, education, and neuropsychology. I have experience working with young adults with neurodevelopmental disorders through my work and volunteering with the group Open Spectrum since 2022. My postgraduate goals are to pursue further education and to continue applying the skills I've gained throughout my studies in fulfilling work environments.

Project Description

This research project intended to focus and centre the voices of adults living with ADHD by exploring the relationship between early academic and social experiences on the development of masking behaviours. Attention deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common neuro-developmental disorder that affects roughly 5% of children and 2.5% of adults globally (Da Silva et al., 2023). Masking behaviours are a form of coping strategy associated with ADHD that many adopt to conceal neurodivergent traits or manage symptoms in predominantly neuro-normative environments. For many, adverse early academic and social experiences can trigger such behaviours and cause significant self-concept and functional impairments in adulthood. To carry out this research, the content of 22 blog posts from the subreddit r/ADHD created by adults with ADHD was inductively analysed.

Project Objectives

This research project aimed to examine the relationship between early academic and social experiences, masking behaviours, and academic and psychosocial self-concept among adults with ADHD.
Two research questions were asked to examine this topic:
1) Is there a relationship between masking behaviours and early academic and social experiences among individuals with ADHD?
2) Do masking behaviours affect academic and psychosocial functioning and self-concept among individuals with ADHD?
This research project was inspired by the qualitative investigation carried out by Miller (2017), who explored how young adults with ADHD construct self-concept. As Miller described, little qualitative research exists aiming to understand the subjective experiences of adults with the condition (Miller, 2017, p. 43).

Project Outcomes

Braun & Clarke’s (2006; 2012) six-step thematic analysis method was utilised during the analysis. Four major themes evolved from the data, along with 10 accompanying subthemes. The four major themes included: 1) Early Academic Struggles; 2) Relationship Difficulties; 3) Maladaptive Coping Strategies; and 4) Delayed Diagnosis.
This study found that early academic and social experiences play an active role in the development of masking behaviours and that long-term reliance on masking behaviours can result in impaired educational and social functioning and self-concept.
Regarding practical implementations, the research findings indicate that the implementation of interventions such as whole-school approaches to teaching can create an inclusive and dynamic learning climate that promotes healthy self-concept development among individuals with ADHD.
Future research suggestions include investigating potential self-concept and masking behaviour differences among those who receive an early ADHD diagnosis versus an adult diagnosis.

Thesis Title

A Qualitative Exploration of Adult ADHD: Masking, Academic and Psychosocial Self-Concept and Functioning.