Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Program Name/Specialization

Developmental Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Danielle Law

Advisor Role

MA Supervisor

Second Advisor

Judy Eaton

Advisor Role

Committee Member

Third Advisor

Kim Roberts

Advisor Role

Committee Member


Emerging adulthood, the developmental period ranging from 18 to 29 years, is a critical stage of development in which individuals grow their social skills, set and achieve life goals, learn to live independently, and further develop brain regions involved in higher-level cognition, shaped by their environment and experiences throughout emerging adulthood. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder associated with adverse interpersonal outcomes. Approximately 5 to 8% of emerging adults are reported to have an ADHD diagnosis and may be at higher risk than typically developing emerging adults for unfavourable developmental outcomes. This heightened risk may be attributed to their challenging social environments (i.e., interpersonal challenges and systemic and systematic discrimination), which could be mitigated by self-compassion, as seen in typically developing populations. This work examined whether and how ADHD predicted peer rejection and rejection sensitivity (i.e., a learned disposition to be extremely sensitive to perceived or real criticism and rejection) compared to typically developing emerging adults, how these respective relationships contributed to psychological distress (i.e., depression and anxiety symptoms and perceived personal stress), and how self-compassion might moderate this relationship. Participants for this study included 604 emerging adults between the ages of 17 and 22 (nADHD = 315) who completed a self-report online questionnaire. Moderated mediation analyses were conducted to explore how self-compassion moderated the indirect effect of ADHD on depression, anxiety, and stress through peer rejection and rejection sensitivity. Additionally, simple moderation analyses were conducted separately for each group (i.e., ADHD and typically developing) to compare group differences in the moderating effect of self-compassion. Results revealed that ADHD, peer rejection, and rejection sensitivity were associated with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. ADHD predicted frequent experiences of peer rejection and higher levels of rejection sensitivity. Moreover, self-compassion was associated with lower stress when individuals reported more incidents of peer rejection but increased anxiety and stress when individuals reported higher levels of rejection sensitivity. Independent-group moderation analyses for each group yielded different effects, implying that self-compassion differentially influences the impact of peer rejection and rejection sensitivity on psychological distress in emerging adults with ADHD and typically developing controls. Implications for developing preventative and therapeutic interventions and directions for future research are discussed.

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Available for download on Sunday, July 14, 2024