Background: Hyperactive/inattentive (HI) behaviors are common in preschoolers, but they result in functional impairment and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses in only some children. We examined whether the quality of mother–child interaction accounts for variance in level of functioning among preschool children with elevated ADHD symptoms.
Method: Parent and teacher ADHD-RS ratings were used to assess 126 HI preschoolers, and clinician Children’s Global Assessment Scale (CGAS) ratings were used to quantify level of functioning. Mother–child interactions during a 5-minute free-play and a 5-minute structured task were coded for child, parent and dyadic behaviors.
Results: Partial correlations, controlling for symptom severity and IQ, revealed child and dyad factors that were related to children’s functioning. Regression analyses revealed that low dyadic synchrony accounted for additional unique variance in children’s functioning, above and beyond the influence of symptom severity and IQ.
Conclusions: Dyadic synchrony between mother and child plays a role in the functioning of preschool children displaying elevated symptoms of hyperactivity/inattention, and may represent a potential area for intervention that is not generally addressed in most parent management training programs.