Parents of ADHD children experience elevated levels of stress and often find their role dissatisfying. Some exhibit depressive symptoms as well. But a new study suggests that it is not the hyperactive-impulsive, attention (HIA) behavior of the child that causes these emotions, but rather the lack of control a parent of an ADHD child feels. “Theoretically, it has been suggested that children with ADHD often have an underactive behavioral inhibition system, which means they are unresponsive to cues of possible punishment,” said Terese Glatz of the Center for Developmental Research at JPS, Orebro University, Sweden, and lead author of the study. “Given that HIA and ADHD are similarly connected to parenting, this theory suggests that parents of children who are high on HIA should experience problems getting their children to follow directions and they should find rule setting essentially ineffective.” This problem leaves a parent feeling powerless over their child. “According to this model, parents with low perceived power will view their children’s behavior as threatening and respond by behaving negatively toward their children. In contrast, high perceived power is expected to buffer against negative parenting behaviors,” said Glatz. “Thus, these results show that parents’ attributions about their power or lack thereof may be critically important when explaining why parents behave negatively toward children.”
In order to determine the link between a parent’s perception of their ADHD child and their parenting style, Glatz and her colleagues followed ADHD preteens and their parents for five years, assessing their behavior annually. They found that parents who viewed their teen as non-compliant experienced more stress and exhibited more negative parenting behaviors. Glatz said, “This questions earlier studies because it implies that it is not hyperactivity, impulsivity, and attention problems, per se, that are stressful for parents and to which they react. Instead, these behaviors seem to influence parents negatively because they are perceived as outside parents’ control.” She added, “The results of this study suggest a need for parental empowerment to help parents interpret their parenting qualities positively and to find alternative ways of managing their youths’ behaviors. Feelings of powerlessness influence parents’ practices negatively, and since these feelings are reality for many parents, they must be taken seriously in future research and clinical practice.”
Glatz, Terese, Hakan Stattin, and Margaret Kerr. “Parents’ Reactions to Youths’ Hyperactivity, Impulsivity, and Attention Problems.” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 39 (2011): 1123-135. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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