In a new study of 61,779 children ages 6 to 17 years of age, researchers have discovered that parents often report a number of co-existing conditions if their child has also been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Furthermore, the risk for having multiple conditions reported by parents increased nearly four-fold when the parents of the child were poor versus those who were affluent.
The data for the study was taken from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health and included over 5,000 children who reportedly had attention deficit disorder.
Attention deficit disorder is characterized in children by impulsive behavior and difficulty staying focused. It remains a commonly diagnosed mental health concern in school-aged children.
The researchers found that 67 percent of children and teens with ADHD had at least one other reported mental disorder, compared with 11 percent of children who did not have ADHD. Most children with ADHD had at least one co-existing mental disorder — 33 percent had one, 16 percent had two, and 18 percent had three or more co-existing mental conditions.
According to the study, parent-reported diagnosed prevalence of ADHD in children was 8.2 percent.
Children with ADHD were more likely to have other mental health and neurodevelopmental conditions. Parents reported that 46 percent of children with ADHD had a learning disability versus 5 percent without ADHD.
Parents also reported that in their child with ADHD, 27 percent had a conduct disorder, 18 percent had anxiety, 14 percent had depression, and 12 percent had speech problems.
Children with ADHD had higher odds of activity restriction, school problems, grade repetition, and poor parent-child communication, the study authors noted. Children with ADHD also had lower social competence scores and higher parent aggravation scores.
The child’s functioning as measured by the researchers in the study declined in a stepwise fashion with increasing numbers of co-existing mental conditions. Use of health and educational services and need for care coordination also increased in such children.
The authors concluded, “Clinical management of ADHD must address multiple comorbid conditions and manage a range of adverse functional outcomes.”
“Therapeutic approaches should be responsive to each child’s neurodevelopmental profile, tailored to their unique social and family circumstances, and integrated with educational, mental health and social support services.”
The study was published online in the Feb. 7 issue of the journal Pediatrics.