Are Parents to Blame for a Child’s ADHD?

By Nevit (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (

Diagnosis for Attention-deficit hyperactivity has doubled since 1970 and it is mostly based upon observations by teachers and caregiver reports.

Children today are required to do more homework and receive less time for leisure activities, according to a new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association. One has to wonder, could adults setting unreasonable expectations on children be responsible for the surge in diagnoses’?

The Study

Dr. Dimitri A. Chistakis of the Seattle Research Institute and an associate editor of the journal said, “Simply put, there are things that we can do for children to maximize their genetic potential. Unfortunately, we are not doing them.”

A team of researchers from the University of Miami set out to explore the reasons behind why ADHD diagnoses’ are on the rise.

The team analyzed information from educational and policy studies that documented the time children spent on academic studies since the 1970s.
From 1981 through 1997, the amount of time a child spent doing academic activities “increased substantially.”

Furthermore, the amount of time a 9-year old child reported having any homework the prior day also increased.

As the amount of reading and homework a child had increased, playtime and leisure activities decreased. Preschool aged children, particularly, showed an even higher increase in the amount of time spent on academic activities.

The time a child between the ages of 3-5 spent reading increased threefold between 1981 through 1997, from 29 minutes to 84 minutes weekly.
The percentage of family members who reported they often taught a 3 to 5 year old child letters, words or numbers also increased from 58% in 1993, to 77% in 2005.

Additionally, the percentage of young children attending full-time day programs increased 17 percent in 1970, to 58 percent in the 2000s.
The authors of the study said, “We found evidence of increased academic demands on very young children that coincides with the increase in prevalence of ADHD, although this does not prove causality.”

Conclusion to the Study

The study authors noted it is not at all surprising that increased academic demands would lead to an increase in ADHD diagnosis. They stated, “Although it is a neurobiological condition with genetic causes, ADHD is defined by behaviors that are age dependent, related to the demands of the environment, and occur on a spectrum of typical behavior in children.”

A diagnosis of ADHD is primarily based on reports from caregivers and teachers, which are influenced by the expectations of certain behaviors in children. Some children will be seen as ‘outliers’ in the face of increased academic demands and are diagnosed with ADHD, as a consequence.

Dr. Christakis suggests that children today are overly stimulated and could have varying degrees of ADHD. He said the medical community should shift the thinking behind ADHD closer to that of autism.

A diagnosis of autism has been moved to an “autism spectrum disorder, “diagnosis, and ADHD should likewise be switched to an “attention-deficit hyperactivity spectrum disorder” diagnosis.

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