Can parents prevent their kids from developing ADHD?

🔑 Key Findings:

  • Young children with an exuberant temperament are more likely to develop ADHD
  • Less engaged parents were more likely to have kids with ADHD
  • More directive parenting boosts self-regulatory skills

WATERLOO, Ontario — Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD for short, is one of the most common childhood neurological disorders. Historically, over six million U.S. children have been diagnosed with the condition. Synonymous with symptoms include fidgeting, difficulty concentrating, and impulsivity, ADHD is usually treated with a combination of behavioral therapy and prescription medication. Now, however, scientists from the University of Waterloo say there are proactive steps parents can take to prevent the onset of ADHD in children before the disorder fully develops.

Developmental psychologists have known for some time that a complex mixture of temperament, parenting, and the mind’s executive functions are all interconnected factors in the development of ADHD symptoms during childhood. However, this latest work indicates there are specific elements that predict a higher chance of ADHD symptoms, highlighting the importance of early targeted intervention.

“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,” says Dr. Heather Henderson, professor in developmental psychology at Waterloo and a co-author of the study, in a university release.

“This work demonstrates that parents can really help break down the pathways that lead to ADHD through more directive and engaged parenting behaviors, such as guiding the child with verbal and physical cues as they encounter new situations.”

Stressed parents while children fight
“Parents can really help break down the pathways that lead to ADHD through more directive and engaged parenting behaviors,” researchers explain. (© fizkes –

While exuberance in a preschooler isn’t necessarily cause for concern, research does indicate that exuberant children also tend to have issues with self-regulation and executive functions, including working memory and flexible thinking.

So, to research this topic study authors tracked a total of 291 children. The team started tracking them at just four months-old and continued the study until their 15th birthdays. Researchers observed child temperament and parent-child interactions at three years of age, then assessed each child’s executive functioning at four years. Finally, scientists analyzed participants’ parent-reported ADHD symptoms on six occasions between ages five and 15. This approach led to the revelation that temperament and parenting work in unison to influence a child’s developing executive functions.

The study indicates that ADHD symptoms increase throughout childhood when a child shows early exuberant temperament, low to normal executive functions, and receives less directive and engaged parenting while navigating new situations early in life.

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

“More directive parenting, which is not controlling but guides the child with verbal and physical cues, can help develop the child’s self-regulatory skills and prevent their ADHD symptoms from increasing.”

The study is published in the journal Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology.

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About the Author

John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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  1. ADHD comes solely from mixing bright children with dullards and having really stupid teachers who couldn’t hold the attention of a sloth.
    When I went to class, I had read the textbook (and probably five or so supplementary readings) and yet I had to sit through some monotone fool, repeating it 10 times so that the morons in the class, who did not understand the words, could repeat it like parrots.
    The fact that the text books were 20 years out of date and the teachers closer to 40 years out of date, did not help.
    If I queried the text as to it’s veracity and provenance, I was (thankfully) sent out of class to stand in a corridor so as not to ‘disrupt’ the teaching of lies.

  2. Giv the Child an eyeexam and if needed, start vision therapy as early as possible.

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