A question about attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been on the minds of researchers: why do some children lose their ADHD symptoms as they age, but not others? Researchers at Florida International University conducted a study to find out how parental attitudes are connected to the persistence of ADHD symptoms. The study revealed that parents’ critical attitudes towards their children was related to a continuance of ADHD symptoms. The findings suggest that interventions for parents and children may reduce ADHD symptoms.
The researchers gathered data from a sample of 388 children with ADHD and 127 children without ADHD, as well as the children’s parents. The researchers measured parents’ levels of criticism of and emotional involvement with their children by asking parents to talk, uninterrupted, for five minutes about their relationship with their children. Experts then scored the recordings for criticism and emotional involvement. These scores were compared to children’s ADHD symptoms. The researchers took the same measurements a year later.
High levels of criticism from parents were associated with continued ADHD symptoms among children diagnosed with ADHD.
“The novel finding here is that children with ADHD whose families continued to express high levels of criticism over time failed to experience the usual decline in symptoms with age and instead maintained persistent, high levels of ADHD symptoms,” stated lead study author Erica Musser, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology.
The researchers note that this study does not suggest that parental criticism causes ADHD, only that a relationship exists between parents’ criticism and children’s ADHD symptoms. It is possible that interventions targeted to parents may help reduce their children’s ADHD symptoms, but perhaps a reduction in symptoms would lead to reduced criticism. The authors call for more research into this relationship.
This research is published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.