Maternal decision making regarding initiating stimulant treatment for child ADHD

About three to five percent of school aged children have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD have difficulty sustaining attention, uncontrollable hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour. They account for a significant number of referrals to children’s mental health services. Stimulant drugs, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) and dextroamphetamine, generally reduce ADHD symptoms. However, 22 to 26 percent of parents who have children with ADHD decide against treatment using these medications. Research shows children with ADHD who are never medicated are at greater risk for substance abuse than those treated with medication. While some parents reject stimulant drugs in favour of behavioural therapy, which has also been demonstrated to be effective, other parents reject drug therapy in favour of less effective and possibly harmful treatments such as diet or vitamin therapies, or no treatment at all. Carla Seipp is studying how beliefs held by parents, teachers and friends about ADHD and information provided by physicians influence a mother’s decision about initiating stimulant drug treatment. The findings could help physicians and families address barriers to using these medications.