Recent Research on ADHD
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Prescriptions for Parents

Making Scientific Research Practical for Families

ADHD – What does recent research tell us?

It is widely acknowledged that the prevalence of ADHD has been increasing, with the CDC reporting in 2011 that approximately 6.4 million children between 4 and 17 years of age have been diagnosed with ADHD.  7.8% of children in America were diagnosed with ADHD in 2003, but by 2011 that percentage had increased to 11%.   Many factors most likely contribute to this increase, and a few recent articles provide some clues.  Some theorize the affected children are manifesting an immaturity of their prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for strategizing and controlling impulses.  Genetics also seems to play a role, as does parenting, nutrition, and environment. 

This month's newsletter provides information from recent research that may help you as you parent your child - with or without ADHD.


Early Adverse Childhood Events

One study evaluating over 13,000 adults aged 18 and over found that those who were physically abused prior to age 18 years were seven times more likely to have ADHD.*

Another study by Dr. Fuller-Thomson found that twice as many women with ADHD reported they had experienced sexual abuse or physical abuse during children compared with adults who did not have ADHD.  It is important to note that it was not possible to determine whether cause and effect, since children with behavior problems may be more likely to suffer abuse.

*Esme Fuller-Thomson, Rukshan Mehta, Angela Valeo. Establishing a Link Between Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Childhood Physical Abuse. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 2014; 23 (2): 188 DOI: 10.1080/10926771.2014.873510

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Toddlers & Preschoolers - Early academics

A new study shows a possible correlation between the prevalence of ADHD and the increasing academic demands placed upon younger children.  Dr. Jeffrey Brosco at the University of Miami evaluated the time spent studying and its association with ADHD.  Between 1981 and 1997, the percentage of preschool children enrolled in full-day programs increased from 17 percent in 1970 to 58 percent in the mid 2000s.  As the number of children in full time programs increased, so did the time spent teaching the preschool children letters and numbers – by 30 percent.  The 6 – 8 year olds in 1997 spent approximately two hours a week on homework, versus less than one hour a week ten years earlier. The authors are concerned that early academic demands negatively affect young children and state, “Beginning kindergarten a year early doubles the chance that a child will need medications for behavioral issues.”
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Elementary Age - Nutrition

In a study of over 1,600 middle school children in Connecticut, those who consumed heavily sweetened energy drinks were 66 percent more likely to experience hyperactivity and inattention.*   The children were also consuming too much sugar and other studies of energy drinks in children show increased caffeine intake.  One more encouragement to be aware of your child's sugar intake - and decrease it!

*Deborah L. Schwartz, Kathryn Gilstad-Hayden, Amy Carroll-Scott, Stephanie A. Grilo, Catherine McCaslin, Marlene Schwartz, Jeannette R. Ickovics. Energy Drinks and Youth Self-Reported Hyperactivity/Inattention Symptoms. Academic Pediatrics, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.acap.2014.11.006

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Adolescents - Parenting styles

A study of over 500 children followed for three years found that children with ADHD whose parents were highly critical of them were more likely to maintain symptoms of ADHD.  Children with ADHD whose parents were less critical were more likely to have symptoms of ADHD decline over time.

Erica Musser, Sara Karalunas, Nathan Dieckmann, Joel Nigg and Tara Peris. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Developmental Trajectories Related to Parental Expressed Emotion. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 2016 DOI: 10.1037/abn0000097

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ADHD and Screen Time

Another significant factor is the increased exposure to screen time which has been addressed in previous newsletters.  See the archived newsletters on:
Dr. Dimitri Christakis has a powerful lecture on TEDx on the relationship between increased screen time in young children and later problems with inattention.
Copyright © 2016 National Physician's Center, All rights reserved.

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