December 7, 2023

Nationwide population study finds higher risk of traumatic injury among parents of children with ADHD

Previous population studies have shown that children with ADHD have a much higher risk of traumatic injuries than their normally developing peers, and that such risk can be greatly reduced with methylphenidate treatment.

But what about the parents of children with ADHD? How does their risk compare with that of parents of normally developing children?

Taiwan has a single-payer public health insurance system that maintains comprehensive healthcare records of virtually every resident.

A Taiwanese research team availed itself of the Taiwan Maternal and Child Health Database, which covers 99.8% of all births, to identify 81,401 fathers and 87,549 mothers who had at least one offspring with ADHD and 1,646,100 fathers and 1,730,941 mothers with no offspring with ADHD.

The team determined children's ADHD status based on either an inpatient diagnosis or four or more  diagnoses.

It looked for parental traumatic injuries including burn injury, fracture, and traumatic brain injury.

To address covariates, it adjusted for age, urbanicity, low-income level, and competing risk of death.

Adjusted for those covariates, parents of children with ADHD were 20% more likely to suffer bone fractures, 27% more likely to have traumatic brain injuries, and 30% more likely to have burn injuries requiring medical treatment than parents of normally developing children.

The elevated risks were significant across the board, but roughly twice as much s for mothers as for fathers of children with ADHD - up 30% vs 15% for bone fractures, up 35% vs 23% for burn injuries, and up 45% vs 21% for traumatic brain injuries.

The authors noted that ADHD is highly heritable and that the findings may in part point to undiagnosed adult ADHD.

Another contributing factor, they suggested, is that "studies have revealed that a high proportion of parents having children with ADHD experience depression and anxiety. Stress-related negative emotions (depression and anxiety) were shown to cause loss of concentration, thereby increasing the likelihood of accidental events such as traffic accidents and contributing to the increased risks of traumatic injury among parents of children  ADHD."

The much-higher elevated risk for mothers seems to support this hypothesis, because mothers continue to be the principal caregivers in Taiwan, and are thus more exposed to the behaviors of their children. The authors cited a study indicating that "diagnosis of ADHD for children was reported to be a predictor of increased caregiver burden."

They concluded, "Given that knowledge is fundamental to act, it is essential to educate the parents of children with ADHD on the increased risk of traumatic injuries they may have. ... The need for behavioral and pharmacological intervention in parents of children with ADHD should be evaluated, especially in the parents with undiagnosed ADHD or sub-threshold ADHD symptoms. It deserves further prospective studies with longer follow-up periods to explore whether undiagnosed ADHD, care burden of parents, and children's aggressive behaviors contribute to the increased risks of traumatic injuries in parents of children with ADHD."

Dian-Jeng Li, Yi-Lung Chen, Ying-Yeh Chen, Ray C. Hsiao, Wei-Hsin Lu, and Cheng-Fang Yen, "Increased Risk of Traumatic Injuries among parents of Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Nationwide Population-Based Study," International Journal of Environmental Research and public health(2021), 18, 3586, published online,

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A recent study delved into the connection between fidgeting and cognitive performance in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Recognizing that hyperactivity often manifests as fidgeting, the researchers sought to understand its role in attention and performance during cognitively demanding tasks. They designed a framework to quantify meaningful fidgeting variables using actigraphy devices.

(Note: Actigraphy is a non-invasive method of monitoring human rest/activity cycles. It involves the use of a small, wearable device called an actigraph or actimetry sensor, typically worn on the wrist, similar to a watch. The actigraph records movement data over extended periods, often days to weeks, to track sleep patterns, activity levels, and circadian rhythms. In this study, actigraphy devices were used to measure fidgeting by recording the participants' movements continuously during the cognitive task. This data provided objective, quantitative measures of fidgeting, allowing the researchers to analyze its relationship with attention and task performance.)

The study involved 70 adult participants aged 18-50, all diagnosed with ADHD. Participants underwent a thorough screening process, including clinical interviews and ADHD symptom ratings. The analysis revealed that fidgeting increased during correct trials, particularly in participants with consistent reaction times, suggesting that fidgeting helps sustain attention. Interestingly, fidgeting patterns varied between early and later trials, further highlighting its role in maintaining focus over time.

Additionally, a correlation analysis validated the relevance of the newly defined fidget variables with ADHD symptom severity. This finding suggests that fidgeting may act as a compensatory mechanism for individuals with ADHD, aiding in their ability to maintain attention during tasks requiring cognitive control.

This study provides valuable insights into the role of fidgeting in adults with ADHD, suggesting that it may help sustain attention during challenging cognitive tasks. By introducing and validating new fidget variables, the researchers hope to standardize future quantitative research in this area. Understanding the compensatory role of fidgeting can lead to better management strategies for ADHD, emphasizing the potential benefits of movement for maintaining focus.

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Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

NEWS TUESDAY: Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

A recent study investigated the presence of autistic-like symptoms in children diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Given the overlapping social difficulties in both ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), distinguishing between the two disorders can be challenging. This study aims to pinpoint specific patterns of autistic symptoms in children with ADHD, comparing them to those with ASD using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, 2nd edition (ADOS-2).

The research involved 43 school-age children divided into two groups:

  • ADHD Group (25 children): Initially referred for ASD symptoms but later diagnosed with ADHD.
  • ASD Group (18 children): Children diagnosed with ASD.

Researchers used ADOS-2 to evaluate differences in communication deficits, social interaction challenges, and repetitive behaviors between the two groups. The study also compared IQ, age, ADOS-2 domain scores, and externalizing/internalizing problems.

Key Findings:

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The study highlights the importance of identifying transdiagnostic domains that overlap between ADHD and ASD. The transdiagnostic domain refers to a set of symptoms or behaviors that are common across multiple diagnostic categories rather than being specific to just one. Identifying these domains in mental health practice and in psychological research is crucial to understanding, properly diagnosing, and treating conditions with overlapping features. This understanding could pave the way for tailored treatments addressing the specific needs of children with ADHD, particularly those exhibiting autistic-like symptoms.

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Recent research by Brancati et al. reviews the efficacy and safety of non-stimulant medications for adult ADHD. Atomoxetine, a well-studied non-stimulant, has shown significant effectiveness in treating ADHD symptoms in adults. The review highlights the importance of considering dosage, treatment duration, safety, and the presence of psychiatric comorbidities when prescribing atomoxetine.

Additionally, certain antidepressants, including tricyclic compounds, bupropion, and viloxazine, which possess noradrenergic or dopaminergic properties, have demonstrated efficacy in managing adult ADHD. Antihypertensive medications, especially guanfacine, have also been found effective. Other medications like memantine, metadoxine, and mood stabilizers show promise, whereas treatments like galantamine, antipsychotics, and cannabinoids have not yielded positive results.

The expert opinion section of the review emphasizes that while clinical guidelines primarily recommend atomoxetine as a second-line treatment, several other non-stimulant options can be utilized to tailor treatments based on individual patient needs and comorbid conditions. Despite these advancements, the authors call for further research to develop and refine more personalized treatment strategies for adults with ADHD.

This review underscores the growing landscape of non-stimulant treatment options, offering hope for more personalized and effective management of ADHD in adults.

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