Single and Combined Effects of Multiple Intensities of Behavioral Modification and Methylphenidate for Children with ADHD in the Home Setting

Brittany M. Merrill, Fiona L. Macphee, Lisa Burrows-MacLean, Erika K. Coles, Brian T. Wymbs, Anil Chacko, Kathryn Walker, Frances Wymbs, Allison Garefino, Jessica Robb Mazzant, Elizabeth M. Gnagy, James G. Waxmonsky, Greta M. Massetti, Daniel A. Waschbusch, Gregory A. Fabiano, William E. Pelham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Behavioral treatment, stimulants, and their combination are the recommended treatments for childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The current study utilizes within-subjects manipulations of multiple doses of methylphenidate (placebo, 0.15, 0.30, and 0.60 mg/kg/dose t.i.d.) and intensities of behavioral modification (no, low, and high intensity) in the summer treatment program (STP) and home settings. Outcomes are evaluated in the home setting. Participants were 153 children (ages 5–12) diagnosed with ADHD. In alignment with experimental conditions implemented during the STP day, parents implemented behavioral modification levels in three-week intervals, child medication status varied daily, and the orders were randomized. Parents provided daily reports of child behavior, impairment, and symptoms and self-reported parenting stress and self-efficacy. At the end of the study, parents reported treatment preferences. Stimulant medication led to significant improvements across all outcome variables with higher doses resulting in greater improvement. Behavioral treatment significantly improved child individualized goal attainment, symptoms, and impairment in the home setting and parenting stress and self-efficacy. Effect sizes indicate that behavioral treatment combined with a low-medium dose (0.15 or 0.30 mg/kg/dose) of medication results in equivalent or superior outcomes compared to a higher dose (0.60 mg/kg/dose) of medication alone. This pattern was seen across outcomes. Parents overwhelmingly reported preferring treatment with a behavioral component as a first-choice treatment (99%). Results underscore the need to consider dosing as well as parent preference when utilizing combined treatment approaches. This study provides further evidence that combining behavioral treatment and stimulant medication may reduce the stimulant dose needed for beneficial effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1481-1495
Number of pages15
JournalResearch on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • ADHD
  • Combined treatment
  • Methylphenidate
  • Parent training
  • Treatment preference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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