Socially Inappropriate Behavior in Kids With ADHD

It is natural for children to forget their manners or engage in rude behavior like pushing and shouting, but kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder struggle with social interaction with peers and adults more than most other children. Because of the inattention that is the foundation of ADHD, children have difficulty recognizing and implementing appropriate social behavior.

Interaction Problems

Kids with ADHD tend to be on one extreme side of social interaction or the other; while one child with ADHD might be too shy or does not understand how to initiate interaction, another child might be hyperactive or hyperverbal and disrupt his peers. The latter type might interrupt peers when they speak or jump around when the rest of the group sits quietly. At other times, interaction with peers is inhibited because a child with ADHD might become so engrossed in his own activity that he doesn’t hear his peer say “hello” or ignores what his peers are doing around him 1.

Poor Communication

Self-regulation is a challenge for many kids with ADHD, which is very apparent in attempts at communication 1. Children with ADHD tend to avoid eye contact or can’t provide consistent eye contact, use gestures inappropriately, have difficulty regulating the volume of their voices or often invade the personal spaces of others. Trouble with inattention could also lead to misrecognition of facial expressions, so kids with ADHD often don’t pick up on nonverbal cues from peers or adults. Without these verbal and nonverbal skills, children with ADHD typically have poor communication abilities that also affect their ability to develop social relationships.

Listening Problems

In addition to problems focusing on nonverbal communication, kids with ADHD struggle with listening. A child with ADHD might mess up a game played with peers because he wasn’t listening to the directions. He might also become subject to bullying because he seems forgetful, acts disorganized or can’t seem to follow instructions.


The cliche “think before you speak” is hard for all children, but it is especially difficult for kids with ADHD 1. Children with ADHD will blurt out answers before hearing the entire question, fidget and can’t seem to sit still, talk excessively, interrupt others when they talk or have trouble waiting or taking turns. All these behaviors tend to make peers think a child with ADHD is “weird,” “bad” or “rude.” While also damaging academic success, these inappropriate behaviors also might cause peers to avoid interacting with a child with ADHD.