Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Psychology - Faculty of Health & Behavioural Sciences


It is generally accepted that Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) results from a dysfunction of the central nervous system, which has led to a commonly-held belief that environmental factors play little role in the behavioural problems of these children. However, this perspective has been poorly investigated. This thesis examined the relationship between parental divorce and the psychological well-being of children with AD/HD. Subjects were aged 6 to 18 years and were diagnosed with either the inattentive or combined subtype of the disorder. Firstly, the relationship between parental divorce and the symptom profile of children with AD/HD was investigated. Differences in children’s behaviour between (a) divorced and non-divorced families, (b) single-parent households and step-families, and (c) single-divorced and multiple-divorced parents, were examined. A possible relationship between the quality of family relationships and children’s symptom profile was investigated. Subtype, age, and gender differences were evaluated in terms of symptom severity and comorbid conditions. Secondly, parents’ perceptions of the impact of their children’s behaviour on marital status and family/parental functioning were examined. The major results were that (a) parental divorce was associated with greater symptom severity, more externalizing/internalizing behaviours, and poorer social functioning, but less with academic underachievement, (b) children living in step-families presented with greater impairment than those in single-parent households, (c) differences in psychological well-being between children with AD/HD of single- and multiple-divorced parents were minor, (d) poor relationships with family members correlated with children’s overall behaviour, (e) parental divorce was related to adjustment differences in AD/HD subtypes, age, and gender, and (f) the correlation between behaviour problems of children with AD/HD and marital/family dysfunction was weak. It may be concluded that parental divorce was associated with the psychological well being in children with AD/HD, and there is some suggestion to view AD/HD as a bio-psychosocial disorder.