Comorbidity of learning disabilities, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and emotional and behavioral disorders in adolescents at risk for the development of emotional and behavioral disorders

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Marjorie Montague - Committee Chair


The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of learning disabilities (LD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD), and comorbid disorders among a sample of secondary school general and special education students. The sample included students who were identified in primary school as at risk (i.e., high, moderate, low) for developing EBD (n = 66), and a group of not at risk peers (n = 99). The study also investigated differences among these students on school variables of achievement, ability, adaptive functioning, and academic competence. Differences in comorbidity rates and areas of dimensionality (i.e., degree of overlapping symptoms) were determined. Some students were in the general education program ( n = 137), and some were receiving special education services ( n = 28).Students were assessed on measures of ability, achievement, and behavior. They were then classified in groups based on researcher-developed criteria for LD, ADHD, and EBD. Additionally, differences in ability, achievement, and behavior were analyzed based on gender, educational placement, behavioral type, and risk status. Five models of LD identification were used to classify students as LD. Prevalence rates based on these identification models varied considerably. Students were then classified into a No Disability group, a Single Disability group, and a Multiple Disability group per model. Differences among these three groups were found to vary considerably across the five models on variables of Achievement, Ability, Adaptive Functioning, and Academic Competence. Comparisons revealed variations in differences among students identified as at high risk, moderate risk, low risk, or not at risk status for the development of EBD on variables of Achievement, Ability, and Academic Competence, depending on the LD classification model. However, no significant differences were found among the risk groups on Adaptive Functioning.


Education, Special; Education, Secondary

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