Children's ADHD Diagnosis Related to Mother's Health Status

December 31, 2008
Sean Johnson

The results of a new study indicate that the

The results of a new study indicate that the “probability of having one's child receive an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis involves a mother's own medical conditions and her use of health services prior to having the child.” However, researchers are unclear as to whether the effects of this relationship are due to biological, environmental, or psychosocial factors—or perhaps even a combination of these three factors. Lead author, G. Thomas Ray, research division, Northern California Kaiser Permanent, said that “The mothers of children who are diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to be diagnosed with health conditions such as depression and anxiety disorder and use more health services in the year prior to, and the two years after, the birth of their child, than mothers of children without ADHD or the mothers of children with asthma.”

By using Northern California Kaiser Permanente’s database of records, researchers were able to identify three groups of mothers: those of children with ADHD, those of children without ADHD, and mothers of children with asthma. Once these groups were established, the research team then compared mothers’ diagnoses, healthcare use, and costs among them. They found that “mothers of children with ADHD spent about $1,000 more on health care in the year before and in the two years following the birth of their child compared to mothers who did not have children with ADHD and they had more illnesses than mothers of children with asthma did” ().

Although this study seems to have expanded on previous, similar studies—Sam Goldstein, PhD, editor of the Journal of Attention Disorders and a research professor of psychology at George Mason University pointed out that a 1985 study in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry “identified poor maternal health during pregnancy, young age of mothers, previous miscarriage, first pregnancy, prematurity, long labor and toxemia as maternal factors that significantly differentiated children with ADHD from controls” —Ray recommends that future studies need to be conducted to address the methods of making an ADHD diagnosis, since such diagnoses are often subjective and influenced by parents and teachers. Goldstein warned that it is important to keep “in mind that the diagnosis of ADHD for the time being is not medical but behavioral” and that “a host of phenomena can contribute to the adverse behavioral symptoms that lead to a diagnosis of ADHD.”

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