Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago are conducting a study to see whether treating moms with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — either with parent training or medication — will help their children who are at risk for the disorder.
The Treating Mothers First Study will identify mothers of children between ages 4 and 8 with behavior problems who are at risk for ADHD and evaluate both the child and mother.
The goal is to determine if the need for stimulant medication for the child can be delayed if the mother is treated first.
“About 25 percent of the time, when a child has ADHD, there’s a parent that has ADHD,” said Mark Stein, Ph.D., UIC professor of pediatrics and psychiatry and principal investigator of the study.
“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.”
For children with ADHD, two treatments are effective: behavior modification and stimulant medication.
Both types of treatment require “a very dedicated, organized person, which, if you have ADHD, that’s going to be a challenge for you,” said Stein. He noted that it is often the mother who administers treatment, and that women are less likely to have their ADHD identified.
For eight weeks, mothers diagnosed with ADHD will receive either a long-acting stimulant or behavioral training. Then, the mother, family and child will be re-evaluated and receive treatment for another eight weeks with either the same treatment or a combination of medication and parent training.
According to Stein, parents with ADHD may have trouble enforcing consistent rules and consequences, and they may not respond correctly to a child’s appropriate or positive behavior.
As part of the study “we observe the parent trying to play with the child, trying to get the child to do things like homework or cleaning up their room,” he said.
In women, ADHD is often misdiagnosed as depression or anxiety, and it often contributes to marital, parenting, sleep and medical problems, said Stein. Many health care providers have not been trained in diagnosing and treating adult ADHD.
“When a mom complains about how bad her life is, she’s given a prescription for Prozac versus understanding that she’s always had issues with inattention, distractibility, or impulsivity, and that’s why she’s having problems,” Stein said.
“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,’” he said.