New Research Suggests Parent’s Mood Mimics that of their ADHD Child

Raising a child with ADHD can cause anxiety and stress for mothers, according to a new study. The research suggests that mothers of children with ADHD are more attentive to the moods of their children and often their moods shift based on the behaviors their children are exhibiting. Candice Odgers, a researcher on the study, and psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, said, “If you think about what it’s like to parent a child with ADHD, it requires a kind of constant vigilance, a high level of energy. This is important, because we know that stress and the burden of caregiving in general are associated with a whole host of problems, mental health and physical problems.” She also believes that the lack of educational funding causes a financial and emotional toll on parents of children with ADHD. These factors contribute to increased stress and raise the risk for divorce and decrease a parent’s feeling of competence in raising their child adequately.

The study, led by University of California, Irvine, psychologist Carol Whalen, surveyed 51 mothers of children with ADHD and control participants to ascertain the children’s behavior patterns and the mothers’ moods over the course of one week. The mothers and children were instructed to record their moods every half an hour using digital reminders. The findings showed that the parents’ stress levels did coincide with the negative behaviors reported by the children, and fluctuated more when the mothers had a psychological problem of their own. The results stress the importance of addressing the emotional needs of the entire family unit when providing mental health services to a child with ADHD. Odgers added, “These are really important links between children’s behavior and mom’s mood and levels of stress. We know from a lot of other research that mom’s mental health is a very, very strong predictor of her parenting style.”

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Rachel

    Rachel

    July 28th, 2011 at 4:23 AM

    Any good mom is going to be intune with the moods of her children. Whta I hate to see happen though is that they will then begin to mimic the very moods that they are trying to moderate in the children. It is one thing to be aware- it is another to play along when that is not always the right solution.

  • Claude

    Claude

    July 28th, 2011 at 8:32 AM

    You’re right Rachel but mood is not totally under our own control all the time isn’t it. It’s more of an involuntary mental state sometimes rather than something we put on. It is stressful to raise a child with a disorder no doubt but seeing your child getting into problems and seeing your child struggle would definitely be affecting a mother’s mood as well.

  • Dennis Lee

    Dennis Lee

    July 28th, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    Well,if a child’s happy then it’s a feeling of containment and accomplishment for the parents and the opposite is true as well. It’s pretty natural but is something to ponder over. Parents are so much related to everything about their kids and it seems like there’s even some magical connection.

  • Christoph

    Christoph

    July 28th, 2011 at 6:43 PM

    Claude I think you are right that a persons mood is not entirely up to their current understanding. Many times you can go into a situation and your mood may be predetermined by the mood of others in the room. I have certainly befallen this type of situation before, its as if the energy in the room is negative and my energy just becomes negative. No explained reason, the conversation is interesting but not mood changing, the energy is just negative. A mom who has been home all day long clearly must suffer through this same situation daily. To me this is a most grievous situation and not understood by most. Hopefully those that read this article and suffer can seek help.

  • Cheri

    Cheri

    July 29th, 2011 at 4:37 AM

    Parents of ADD and ADHD kids face such a battle every day that it kind of makes me angry when people say stuff to try to bring them down. they are like the rest of us doing the best that they can with the situation that they have been handed. they were not given a guide to how to handle this but were thrown into it. I think that we should offer them love and support like we do for kids with any other problems, and not browbeat them into how we think that they should be reacting. So their moods fluctuate together. Big deal. Don’t yours?

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