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Research Review: Social cognition and everyday social skills in children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a meta-analysis of case-control studies.

BACKGROUND: Previous studies that have assessed social cognition in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have produced inconsistent findings. To summarize these data and shed light upon moderators that may explain observed inconsistencies, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis exploring social cognition (Theory of Mind (ToM), Empathy, Facial and Non-Facial Emotion Recognition) and Everyday Social Skills in children and adolescents with ADHD.

METHODS: The current meta-analysis involved 142 studies including 652 effect sizes. These studies compared children and adolescents with ADHD (n = 8,300) and with typical development (n = 7,983).

RESULTS: Participants with ADHD exhibited moderate to very large deficits in ToM (SMD = 0.84, 95% CI = 0.68-0.99), Facial Emotion Recognition (SMD = 0.63, 95% CI = 0.46-0.81), and Everyday Social Skills (SMD = 1.23, 95% CI = 1.08-1.37). The magnitude of these impairments was similar when considering effect sizes adjusted for some covariates and the methodological quality of the studies. Few studies have investigated Empathy and Non-Facial Emotion Recognition, which precludes definitive conclusions.

CONCLUSIONS: Children and adolescents with ADHD experience robust impairments in ToM, Facial Emotion Recognition and Everyday Social Skills. Future studies should explore whether these deficits are a consequence of difficulties in other areas of cognition (e.g., executive functioning). We have made all our raw data open access to facilitate the use of the present work by the community (e.g., clinicians looking for tools, assessing social impairments, or researchers designing new studies).

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