To Help Kids With ADHD, Help the Parents Too

Children, parents with ADHD benefit from parenting intervention

Between 25% and 50% of children with ADHD have parents with ADHD, which may signal an intergenerational sequence of ineffective parenting and poor child development, say researchers from University of Maryland. They’re conducting an interventional study, though, that suggests it’s possible to break that pattern.

With funding from the National Institutes of Mental Health and working with pediatricians and psychologists at Children’s National Health System pediatric satellite clinics, the researchers are screening the parents as well as the children for mental health problems at annual well-child visits.

Andrea Chronis-Tuscano, psychology professor and principal investigator, says, “It can be difficult for a parent to create an organized and consistent environment for their child with ADHD if they themselves struggle with executive functioning difficulties, such as time management, planning, and organization.”

If both a child and parent screen positive, the team delivers a behavioral parenting intervention using telehealth, through the patient’s cell phone, tablet, or computer. Half of the parents, selected at random, will also receive medication for ADHD. Behavioral therapies include guidelines and exercises designed to promote the creation of routines and calm, organized home environments.

Shifting this work into pediatric primary care, the research team says, will ensure that treatment is more accessible and implemented earlier in the child’s development. “Screening in primary care is an excellent way to capture families that need support but might be reluctant to go to a mental health specialty clinic for parental issues," says Chronis-Tuscano.