An evaluation of stimulant medication on the reinforcing effects of play

Robert H. Larue, Louisiana State University, USA.
John Northup
Alan A. Baumeister
Mike F. Hawkins
Lauren Seale
Tara Williams
Andrea Ridgway


Although a vast literature has indicated that stimulant medications are effective for reducing inappropriate behavior in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the effects of stimulant medication on ancillary behaviors (e.g., play) have yet to be investigated with the same rigor. We used a reinforcer assessment procedure to evaluate the effects of medication on the play and social behavior of 5 preschool children who had been diagnosed with ADHD. Conditions included (a) social reinforcement (i.e., playing with friends), (b) alone play, and (c) quiet time (i.e., resting). Results indicated that 1 of the 5 participants selected fewer social reinforcers and more nonsocial reinforcers (alone play or quiet time) while on medication. The findings indicate that the reinforcer assessment procedure may be a viable way to evaluate medication effects on an ongoing basis and to inform treatment decisions.