A new study suggests that children with ADHD who maintain the characteristics of the condition as they mature may be unable to shake the symptoms because of their relationship with their parents — and an article in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology suggests that sometimes blaming mom and dad is justified.
Many kids who have an ADHD diagnosis begin to improve after a couple of years, but others — 50 to 70% — retain the lack of focus and fidgeting on into adolescence. The term used to describe this retention is "ADHD persistent."
A team of researchers led by Erica Musser, an assistant professor of psychology at Florida International University, say the problem could be judgmental parents. The three-year study of 388 children with ADHD and their parents included annual five-minute interviews with parents about the relationship they had with their kids.
The meetings were recorded and experts were asked to assess the recordings of the interviews and particularly to listen for two parenting mistakes. They wanted to establish if the parents were likely to criticize their children instead of their behavior, and they wanted to determine if the parents were overprotective.
There was an association between parents who demonstrated both of these tendencies and the persistence of ADHD symptoms in kids who had previously been diagnosed with the condition. The authors caution, however, that this link does not suggest a cause-and-effect relationship.
Ned Hallowell, Ph.D., one of the leading experts on ADHD, advises that parents provide support to assist kids in managing their condition. The worst parental reaction, he explained, is to punish an ADHD-diagnosed kid.
"Too often, teachers and parents (and bosses) jump to what I call "the moral diagnosis," and ascribe the underachievement to lack of effort or laziness, which leads to lectures, punishments, and a gradual infection of the spirit with the viruses of shame and diminished sense of self. In fact, the correct diagnosis is of a brain difference, not a brain deficit, and certainly not a moral failing."
A CDC 2013 report estimated that approximately 11% of US school children have been diagnosed with ADHD.
The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss writes that a Mayo Clinic study has found that girls with ADHD had double the risk of becoming obese compared with girls who do not have the condition. Another report from Mathematica Policy Research found that cases of ADHD in Hispanics has increased, especially in females.
And the first national survey of children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, published in 2015, found that half of the kids with ADHD in kindergarten were on medication for the condition.
Many erroneously believe that the condition is about children who cannot focus or sit still, but this misunderstanding is affecting school achievement because so few know much about ADHD.
The proper intervention to help parents lessen their criticism may lead to decreasing ADHD symptoms, but efforts to reduce severe symptoms of kids could also lead to reduced parental criticism. The result would eventually be healthier relationships among the entire family.
President of the UK ADHD Partnership, Dr. Susan Young, is concerned about the repercussions that might occur as a result of blaming parents. She added that it is extremely challenging to manage children who have behavioral difficulties and cannot control themselves. Along with that, approximately 80% of ADHD characteristics are hereditary, so many parents of children with ADHD have the condition themselves, reports Emine Saner of The Guardian.