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SALT LAKE CITY — Boys who suffer from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder may have a plethora of educational and career disadvantages later on, researchers say.
The findings of a 33-year follow-up study published in "Archives of General Psychiatry" comparing men with and without childhood ADHD were somewhat dismal: The majority of men who had been diagnosed as children with the hyperactive disability and not treated, consistently completed fewer years of education, held lower positions in their jobs and earned $40,000 less a year than those without the disability. It also found they were more likely to have social problems.
ADHD affects 3 to 5 percent of the school-age population in the U.S., or about 1 million children. Boys are three to four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls with the condition.
Of the men involved in the study who had ADHD, 31.1 percent did not complete high school, and only 3.7 percent completed post-high school degrees. Comparatively, only 4.4 percent of those without ADHD did not complete high school, and 29.4 percent went on to complete a post-high school education.
In the social realm, men diagnosed with ADHD were more likely to divorce: 31.1 had been divorced, and 9.6 percent were currently divorced. They were more prone to develop antisocial personality disorder and abuse drugs and alcohol.
These findings are relevant to those with hyperactive behavioral components (very active, often acts without thinking) of the condition who were not in treatment, not inattentive (doesn't focus on tasks or activities) ADHD components.
Study author Rachel Klein recommended parents work with their children who have ADHD toward treatment.
"The multiple disadvantages predicted by childhood ADHD well into adulthood began in adolescence, without increased onsets of new disorders after 20 years of age," Klein wrote. "Findings highlight the importance of extended monitoring and treatment of children with ADHD."
When they don't understand something, they give up and create their own sense of hopelessness. Thus, parents' unconditional love and understanding are essential.
–Annabella Hagen, LCSW
Annabella Hagen, LCSW, a therapist in Salt Lake, agrees. She says parents should consult with their child's pediatrician and teacher as they notice ADHD tendencies in their child, and find a therapist who can teach children the skills they need to treat those symptoms.
She warns that medication may not be a "magic solution" to ADHD, rather, that parental involvement in the child's life — and treatment — is essential.
"Parents need to remember that their child with ADHD may be suffering from self-esteem issues," Hagen said. "Children with ADHD usually think they are ‘not as smart' as the other children — that's not true. ...When they don't understand something, they give up and create their own sense of hopelessness. Thus, parents' unconditional love and understanding are essential."
She says limits are important for children with ADHD, but love and acceptance is key. She advises parents to give children opportunities to make friends and find success through activities outside of school.
"Parents can help their children develop real self-esteem by providing experiences for their child where they are solving problems, starting with easy problems and continuing with more difficult tasks," Hagen said. "These real successes create inner satisfaction and the feeling of accomplishment. Parents let them figure out these problems as much as possible on their own, but are there to give encouragement and pick-me-ups when needed."
Despite the challenges of ADHD, she concludes, parents should foster the parent-child relationship, and the child's vision of themselves and their potential.