ADHD and Romantic Relationships

Is it Different for Women? Gender Differences in Romantic Relationship Functioning for Young Adults with ADHD


Although research has begun to acknowledge the role of ADHD in social dysfunction, gender differences do not tend to receive sufficient attention. Research increasingly suggests that women present with an altered set of ADHD symptoms, increased mental health concerns, and report greater impairment in many domains, including their romantic relationships. It has been suggested that ADHD symptoms are uniquely problematic for women because ADHD-related behaviors (e.g., disorganization, impulsivity) are incongruent with expectations for female behaviour (i.e., to be tidy, polite, and social).

Our Focus

  1. to investigate how gender differences in ADHD symptoms impact relationship functioning;
  2. analyze the roles of stress and anxiety in this association; and
  3. test whether conflict with gender expectations contributes to interpersonal difficulties for young women with ADHD.


  • 171 undergraduate students (36 males and 135 females), aged 18-25 years
  • Online self-report survey assessing: ADHD symptomatology, anxiety, stress, gendered attributes, and relationship distress (i.e., insecure attachment style, intimate partner violence).


More ADHD symptoms were correlated with more stress and anxiety, and less relationship efficacy* in both males and females.

In women only, ADHD symptoms were also linked with attachment-related anxiety** and avoidance***

Stress helped explain the link between ADHD symptoms, relationship efficacy, & attachment anxiety and avoidance, so vulnerability to stress could be an important dimension of interpersonal difficulty for women with ADHD.

Females’ ADHD symptoms were additionally linked with increased perpetration and victimization of intimate partner violence, but stress did not help explain these links.

Contrary to expectations, more ADHD symptoms was correlated with less masculinity and was unrelated to femininity.

Nonetheless, the rest of our results suggest that there is a highly complex association between gender and relationship distress for individuals with ADHD, lending support to the importance of tailoring information and interventions to the separate needs of men and women.

*This refers to perceived ability to successfully navigate and maintain healthy relationships; someone with low relationship efficacy may struggle to communicate effectively, set boundaries, resolve conflicts, or trust others, for example.

**Attachment-related anxiety is characterized by a fear of abandonment and a tendency to seek constant reassurance from partners.

***Attachment-related avoidance is characterized by a fear of intimacy, emotional distance, and a tendency to prioritize independence over closeness in relationships.

See Rachel’s poster presented at the 2023 JCURA fair!


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