Directive Parenting Style May Moderate ADHD

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Directive Parenting Style May Moderate ADHD

Jim Windell


          Temperament, parenting, and executive functioning are factors that have been said to play a role in a child’s development of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms.

          When it comes to temperament, a child with an exuberant temperament during the toddler years may just continue to be an exuberant and happy childhood. Or they could show increasing signs of ADHD – with all of the negative aspects of those symptoms.

          So, what makes the difference?

          Which exuberant kids display increasing signs of ADHD? And what are the specific mechanisms through which early exuberant temperament impacts later ADHD symptoms?

           According to Dr. Heather Henderson, professor in developmental psychology at the University of Waterloo and a co-author of the study, “A collection of early traits we call exuberance in child temperament, such as high excitement, curiosity and positive responses to unfamiliar people and contexts, combined with family factors might predispose some kids to develop ADHD symptoms.” She and her colleagues wondered if it may be parents who play a key role in promoting – or preventing – the development of ADHD symptoms.

          To find out, Dr. Henderson and her associated followed 291 children from just four months of age to 15 years, the researchers observed child temperament and parent-child interactions at three years, assessed the child's executive functioning at four years, and analyzed parent-reported ADHD symptoms six times between ages five and 15.

           The results of the study were recently published in the journal Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology. Those results found that parents of young children with an excitable or exuberant temperament could adapt their parenting style to help moderate their child’s potential development of ADHD.

           “This work demonstrates that parents can really help break down the pathways that lead to ADHD through more directive and engaged parenting behaviors,” explains Dr. Henderson, who adds that guiding the child with verbal and physical cues as they encounter new situations is an important technique. 

           While exuberance in preschoolers can be very positive, research shows exuberant children can also have difficulty with self-regulation and executive functions, such as working memory and flexible thinking.

          “Symptoms of ADHD typically stabilize from ages five to nine and decrease from ages nine to 15,” Henderson says. “But for predictable cases of very young children with exuberant temperament and less directive parenting, that stabilization may not occur.”  

          The study finds that more directive parenting, which is not controlling but guiding the child with verbal and physical cues, can help develop the child’s self-regulatory skills and prevent their ADHD symptoms from increasing.

           To read the original article, find it with this reference:

Lorenzo, N. E., Bui, H. N. T., Degnan, K. A., McDermott, J. M., Henderson, H. A., Fox, N. A., & Chronis-Tuscano, A. (2023). The Developmental Unfolding of ADHD Symptoms from Early Childhood Through Adolescence: Early Effects of Exuberant Temperament, Parenting and Executive Functioning. Research on child and adolescent psychopathology, 10.1007/s10802-023-01140-2. Advance online publication.




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