Researchers have investigated the potential link between parental emotions and symptoms of ADHD over time.
In a large number of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), symptoms will diminish with age. However, in a sub-group of adolescents, symptoms of ADHD do not reduce. The reasons for this difference in symptom severity remain unclear. A study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology has reported on a possible reason for these differences. Researchers assessed almost 400 children with ADHD over a period of 3 years in an attempt to identify possible associations with developmental differences in ADHD over time.
The role of parents’ emotional expressions in the symptoms of ADHD were investigated. Assessment of parents’ expressed emotions including parental criticism and emotional over-involvement was carried out by asking parents to talk about their relationship with their child. The conversations were analysed for harsh or negative statements about the child (as a measure of criticism), and feelings of over protectiveness (as a measure of emotional over-involvement). This analysis was conducted twice over a period of one year.
The researchers found that in children with ADHD who had parents who expressed high levels of criticism over a long period of time, symptoms were less likely to be reduced. According to the authors of the study, even though there was an association between high levels of parental criticism and continuing symptoms of ADHD, this study does not indicate that parental criticism is the cause of persistent symptoms. Further research is necessary to determine a causal link, and whether reducing parental criticism could impact on symptoms of ADHD over time.
“Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Developmental Trajectories Related to Parental Expressed Emotion,” by Erica Musser, PhD, Florida International University; Sara Karalunas, PhD, Nathan Dieckmann, PhD, and Joel Nigg, PhD, Oregon Health and Science University; and Tara Peris, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, published Feb. 8, 2016.
News Release: “Persistent ADHD associated with overly critical parents” http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-02/apa-paa020516.php