Distractibility in Hyperactive and Conduct-Disordered Children


Requests for reprints to: Dr Patrick W. L. Leung, Department of Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong


Hyperactive children are often said to be inattentive and distractible. However, the results from a number of experimental studies are equivocal. To examine this discrepancy, a Chinese version of the Stroop Test was devised. Four groups of subjects recruited from a community sample of 1479 Chinese boys living in Hong Kong took part in the investigation. These were: (1) a pure hyperactive (HA) group; (2) a mixed hyperactive/conduct-disordered (HA + CD) group; (3) a pure conduct-disordered (CD) group; and (4) a normal (N) control group. The results revealed that HA children were more markedly affected by the introduction of distracting stimuli. This distractibility was probably a function of both stimulus potency and the random order in which stimuli were presented. The specificity of a greater distractibility to HA children indicates its diagnostic value with regard to hyperactivity. The failure to find a similar deficit in HA + CD children raises questions about the clinical identity of this mixed diagnostic group.