Parents with children who have ADHD know that it can be stressful. Now, Dara Babinski, a clinical psychologist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, is using data from the Pittsburgh ADHD Longitudinal Study (PALS) to analyze the sources of that stress.
ADHD is characterized by inappropriate levels of inattention and/or hyperactivity. Some children present inattentive symptoms, such as difficulty following through on tasks and daydreaming. Other children display hyperactive and impulsive symptoms, such as difficulty staying seated and talking excessively. Some display a combination of both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms.These symptoms can lead to problems in school, troubles getting along with peers or challenges following directions at home and at school.
According to Babinski, this can have a cumulative negative impact for many parents. Her long-term data identified the primary sources of stress as:
- The amount of energy needed just to manage their child’s daily behavior at home.
- The time consumed by meetings at their children’s school about academic or disciplinary problems.
- The worry caused by concerns that their child may fail a class or have to repeat a grade.
- The time devoted to researching and pursuing treatment for their child through appointments with pediatricians, psychiatrists or behavioral therapists. (The time required to be off work to take their children to such appointments is often an added burden).
Some factors that can help parents mitigate the long term stress include:
- Involvement with the child. “This is really critical,” Babinsky noted. “When the parent-child relationship is strained, that is a risk factor for long-term difficulties for the child.”
- Developing a good working relationship between parents and teachers to find ways to manage behaviors and promote the child’s success.
- Getting help to reduce their own emotional difficulties and improve their confidence in dealing with a child who struggles with ADHD.
Babinski observed that much of the research currently focuses on younger children with ADHD. Because the majority of children with ADHD continue to have difficulties as they get older, she believes more studies need to be done on adolescents and young adults with the condition to help prevent problems such as delinquency and substance abuse.