Parents can play a role in preventing ADHD symptoms: Study
The Sector > Research > Parents can play a role in preventing the development of ADHD symptoms, study finds

Parents can play a role in preventing the development of ADHD symptoms, study finds

by Freya Lucas

February 19, 2024

Parents of young children with an excitable or exuberant temperament could adapt their parenting style to help moderate their child’s potential development of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to a new study.


The findings will be of interest to those who take a whole of family approach to educating and caring for young children in early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings.


Temperament, parenting and executive functioning are all considered to be interconnected factors in developing ADHD symptoms throughout childhood, however the study found specific factors that predict a higher chance of ADHD symptoms, pointing to the importance of early targeted intervention.


“A collection of early traits we call exuberance in child temperament, such as high excitement, curiosity and positive responses to unfamiliar people and contexts, combined with family factors might predispose some kids to develop ADHD symptoms,” co-author Dr. Heather Henderson explained.


“This work demonstrates that parents can really help break down the pathways that lead to ADHD through more directive and engaged parenting behaviours, such as guiding the child with verbal and physical cues as they encounter new situations.” 


While exuberance in pre-schoolers can be very positive, research shows exuberant children can also have difficulty with self-regulation and executive functions, such as working memory and flexible thinking.


To reach their findings the researchers followed 291 children from four months of age through to 15 years of age, observing child temperament and parent/child interaction at three years of age, assessing executive functioning at four years of age, and analysing parent reported ADHD symptoms six times between the ages of five and fifteen years. 


Ultimately researchers found that temperament and parenting work together to impact a child’s developing executive functions, suggesting that ADHD symptoms increase throughout childhood when a child shows early exuberant temperament, low to normal executive functions, and receives less directive and engaged parenting as the young child navigates new situations.


“Symptoms of ADHD typically stabilize from ages five to nine and decrease from ages nine to 15. But for predictable cases of very young children with exuberant temperament and less directive parenting, that stabilization may not occur,” Dr Henderson said. 


“More directive parenting, which is not controlling but guides the child with verbal and physical cues, can help develop the child’s self-regulatory skills and prevent their ADHD symptoms from increasing.”


Access the findings in full here. 

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