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Early Childhood Parenting Style Could Influence ADHD Severity in Kids

See what new research suggests as the most effective parenting style for curbing symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder early on.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Published February 20, 2024
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As Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnoses continue to increase, more and more parents are finding new ways to help their children manage their symptoms and succeed in school and beyond. But what if a simple change in your parenting style could help curb your child’s ADHD symptoms before they arise?

A new study published in the scientific journal Springer suggests that a child’s temperament, parenting styles and the brain’s executive functions are interconnected factors that play a powerful role in the development of ADHD symptoms throughout childhood. The researchers believe, by altering your parenting style, you can have a positive effect on reducing your child’s ADHD symptoms.

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

The researchers emphasize that while exuberance in pre-schoolers 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. These skills become more important as children move upward in the school system.

“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,” Henderson notes.

While the sample size from the study is relatively small (around 291 children followed from the age of four months of age to 15 years), clinicians believe that the study offers a promising start to learning more about how early childhood development contributes to the development of ADHD.

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