Could treating Mom get to the root of the problem with ADHD? Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago believe so. They are conducting a study to investigate whether treating mothers of children with ADHD can delay medication of children at risk for the development of the disorder.
Mark Stein, a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of Chicago-Illinois and the lead investigator for this study, said, "About 25 percent of the time, when a child has ADHD, there's a parent that has ADHD. We realize this is a weakness in our service delivery models, because often clinicians focus on just treating the child and ignore the fact that another family member has ADHD."
Children with ADHD are typically treated in one of two ways: medication or behavior modification, which encourages and discourages certain behaviors with various forms of reinforcement. The problem is that, in order for treatment to be effective, it requires a disciplined, steady parental figure - and, in many households, that person administering the treatment is mom.
ADHD would be a particular problem for mothers because, in women, oftentimes the condition goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as depression or anxiety. Parents with ADHD tend to have difficulty applying consistent rules and consequences to broken rules, or applying the correct response when children perform positive behaviors.
The Treating Mothers First study would examine women who have children, between the age of 4 and 8, with behavioral problems and who are considered at risk for developing ADHD. For eight weeks, mothers who are diagnosed with ADHD will be given either stimulant medication or behavioral training. Then the mother, children, and family will be reassessed by researchers, who will either continue the same treatment or pursue a mixture of medication and behavioral training for Mom. Researchers will also observe mothers with their children, doing things like playing with them or instructing them to do their homework.
"When you think of ADHD, you think of a 7-year-old boy, not a mom who says 'I am overwhelmed, easily distracted, and just can't get things done'," Stein said.
ADHD can often lead to medical, marital, sleep, and parenting problems, and many physicians are not properly trained in diagnosing the disorder in adults.