Published Online: February 18, 2004
Published in Print: February 18, 2004, as Special Education


Special Education

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Parents and ADHD

Parents of many children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder should themselves be treated for the same condition, a recent study says.

Researchers at the University of Maryland College Park found that parents of children with the condition are 24 times more likely to have the disorder themselves than parents of children without ADHD.

In the study, published in the December 2003 edition of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, researchers at the ADHD program in the university's psychology department evaluated 98 children ages 3 to 7 with ADHD and 116 without the disorder, along with their parents. The participants are part of a 10-year study following the long-term progress of children with ADHD who were originally recruited at the universities of Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Researchers used psychological tests to measure both the parents' and children's behavioral and mental-health problems and ADHD symptoms.

The study also found that when preschoolers with ADHD suffer from other serious behavioral problems, their parents are two to five times more likely to themselves suffer from a wide range of mental-health problems, including depression, anxiety, and drug addictions.

The parents' problems may prevent them from taking an active or supportive enough role in the treatment of their children's disorders, said Andrea Chronis, the study's lead author and the director of the ADHD program at the University of Maryland.

"When you have a child who has ADHD, it is so important for us to look more broadly at what is going on with the parents," Ms. Chronis said. "We know when parents have psychological problems it can negatively impact the benefits of treatment for their child."

About 2 million school-age youngsters in the United States have ADHD, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The condition, which is characterized by hyperactivity, short attention spans, and impulsive behavior, can interfere with a child's education.

"This study is in no way blaming the parent," Ms. Chronis emphasized. "We just have to ask ourselves how can we assess and treat the whole family unit."

—Lisa Goldstein

Vol. 23, Issue 23, Page 19

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