People Actually Think That ADHD Is Caused By Poor Parenting

causes of ADHDI’m no expert in ADHD, but isn’t it kind of obvious that parents aren’t the cause of their child’s diagnosis? Sure, bad parenting can exacerbate any issue, but to blame them for their child’s ADHD is just insane. Though it seems there are people out there who truly believe that ADHD is caused by lousy parenting. This according to a survey by Parents magazine and New York’s Child Mind Institute. They contacted 1,000 parents to get their views on ADHD and found that nearly a third of participants see it as a result of “insufficient or absent parenting rather than a true medical condition.” Wow!

Again, I’m not an expert, but this just seems so…wrong. I guess it’s because so many mothers and fathers I know personally who have a child with ADHD are some of the most wonderful parents around. In fact, they seem to have more patience than your average mom or dad simply because of the challenges involved. And so the thought of someone blaming them for their child’s diagnosis is not only absurd but also offensive. It highlights yet another way parents seem to place judgement on each other these days and, well, it’s sad.

There were some other interesting findings as well. Like the fact a majority of people surveyed (72 percent) said that doctors and parents are too quick to put kids on medication for ADHD rather than looking for other solutions. And 63 percent of parents said too many children are being diagnosed with ADHD when they just have behavioral issues (45 percent felt it’s because they’re teachers can’t handle them). Thirteen percent said ADHD should not be treated as a medical condition, but rather as a behavioral issue that can be corrected with discipline.

Meanwhile, almost all parents surveyed (96 percent) would want their child’s pediatrician to tell them if he or she thought their child should be evaluated for a psychiatric or learning disorder (83 percent said they’d want to hear the same from their child’s teacher).

“Stigma, lack of awareness and fear around mental health care prevent many parents and teachers from getting kids the support they need,”said physician and Child Mind Institute president Harold Koplewicz.

(Photo: Zurijeta/Shutterstock)

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  • Andrea

    This is going to get ugly soon, but I am gonna jump in anyways.

    First of all, let me just say that ADHD is absolutely a real condition. One that makes parenting very challenging to say the least and I applaud all the men and women out there who navigate it.

    Having said that, ADHD is absolutely over diagnosed. There is NO question about that in my mind. The rates at which kids (specially boys) are being labeled ADHD are out of control. Do I personally blame it on poor parenting? Not necessarily, but there are a few factors:

    1. Schools: no child, specially a healthy boy, can sit still for 6 hours straight the way schools are demanding they do these days. They need WAY more physical activity than what they are getting. SO yes, they get fidgety, the get impatient, they start pestering their desk mates, they get tired of sitting still. I don’t necessarily blame the teachers who are strapped by the MORONIC no child left behind law; but I think they need to stop every hour and at least have them do jumping jacks or something. Boys cannot sit still and listen for 6 hours straight, that’s insane

    2. Working parents: now WAIT, don’t slam me yet. I’ll be the 1st to admit that it takes 2 people to provide a decent standard of living these days. I will argue that it shouldn’t be, but it is. Not to mention the fact that for some women, not working is not an option because there is no other income. However, this can also contribute to lack of patience, lack of time, and rushing everywhere all the time.So when mom and dad are tapped out, they take the kid to the doctor saying that he/she won’t sit still and please help. Doctor prescribes medicine. Yes I am oversimplifying, but you see where I am going with this.

    3. Food: I’m no expert on this, but I seem to have read several reports that say we are pumping untold amounts of hormones into our children via food. Could be, I don’t know really.

    So while I am not saying that bad parenting is causing ADHD, I think it is true that is an over used diagnosis.

    • T.

      Totally agree.
      I agree that some children have mental problem. I went to school with a schyzoprhenic boy for some time. And he was dangerous sometimes, though I considered him my friend, and he considered me his. He had to leave school when it became too much, too dangerous for us.
      It wasn’t pretty.

      Also yes, in the US, too many children are diagnosed ADHD.

      I know that my uncle and aunt tried to make for an ADHD diagnosys for one of my cousin, who was 14 years old. In the end the 4th psychiatric agreed that yes, he had ADHD. So they went to his school and said he couldn’t be failed because it wasn’t his fault.
      The truth is: he wanted to make Classical studies and his parents forced him into Scientific ones (here, in Italy, we have different kind of High School). I know because he often spoke with me about this (I made Classical Studies). Since he hated what he was doing, he did poorly.
      But his parents WANTED him to make Scientifical Studies and to become an engineer.

      Personal story> going into an elementary school in which, the very first day, we were made to sit completly still with our arm crossed for 2 hours. In silence. While the teacher also stood silent. To “teach us”. 20 kids agfe 5 to 6.
      Hello crazyness!

      A lot of reason can make a child behave like he has ADHD. I did, because I was being bullied by my teacher (the same of above) who was crazy about kids staying ABSOLUTLY STILL and we had to bring our books tied in height order. If not, the teacher brooke the tie and made us kneel and took up the books and pencils. Crawling around the classrom.
      Hello crazyness2!

      Also: if your doctor is paid by the ADHD meds industry in any way, shape or form, he/she is not to be trusted regarding an ADHD diagnosys. Sad but true. And yes, it does happen. If a doctor is invited in a 5 Stars Hotel to attend an one week conference about how to diagnose ADHD and the cure to give with all expense paid… Casually by the ADHD-medicine making industry… He/she MAY believe he/she is not corrupted by face it, it is.

  • Sandy

    I have two kids. One has severe ADHD and the other is perfectly normal. They are 20 months apart, so growing up had as close to the same environment as humanly possible. If parenting is the cause, how do you explain this? There is a proven strong genetic link. In our case the child most like the parent with ADHD in personality also has the condition. To characterize the problem as having trouble sitting still is to trivialize it almost beyond recognition. I think most parents with ADHD kids would agree with me that if the only problem we faced was getting kids to sit still we would be the happiest people on earth. Unfortunately that’s how many people see it, though: a diagnosis given to antsy kids so parents and teachers can drug them up and have easier lives. Not true, but I almost wish it were so I could get my family some of those magic pills!

  • mike

    I think ADHD is caused by the screwed up cocktail of chemicals that we pump into our children in this society. I never knew anyone growing up that needed to go on Ritalin or Adderall, know why? Because we got smacked if we didn’t pay attention. Also, we exercised regularly! We got all our energy out on the soccer field or playing stickball. Kids nowadays can’t escape the HFCS that’s ubiquitous in everyday foods. My children avoid this like the plague. My wife and I also prohibit food coloring. My kids wet the bed consistently during potty training when exposed to food dyes. Test that out, restrict it for a while, then give it to your kids and watch the symptoms manifest. There’s no such thing as colic or ADHD. Parents simply don’t know what they’re doing anymore. I totally agree with the minority on this one.

    Colic is a name given to the fact that you don’t know what your baby wants. If you can’t figure it out, you label them as colicky. I saw a woman on the subway once try everything she had to get her baby to calm down. The baby kept looking at me. I was reading a paper. I gave the mother a page of the paper and the baby started to crumple/uncrumple it and calmed down immediately. The AMA would’ve given her pills to treat her “colicky” baby. WTF is wrong with these doctors? How many of them are simply salespeople for the pharmaceutical companies?

    ADHD is attributed to what? Indigo kids?!? The next phase of evolution? B.S.!! Try parenting. It works. I was a latchkey kids and I see how my children are doing with their stay-at-home-mom! I wouldn’t trade that for the world. Would we have more money if my wife worked? Of course! Would my children have richer lives? Hell no! You can’t put a price on that.

    It takes a village, folks. Socialize with your kids, don’t “social network” with them. You need to be there to support, guide, and sometimes punish them in the interest of focus and discipline.

    no one should have to go on medication before their first divorce! : )

    • Alina

      Mike, are you really this stupid irl or are you just playing it up for the internet? Doctors prescribing pills for babies…please god tell me you don’t think babies take pills or I may have to jump on the bandwagon about needing a license to reproduce. A baby crying on a train is not colic – a baby that continually cries for cries is a different story, and this can be caused by an immature digestive system, acid reflux, allergic reaction, foods that produce gas, etc…obviously crying is the only way the baby can communicate this. I’m a pediatric nurse and trust me I’ve seen it all – we once had a baby that was crying for 3 days straight and turned out it had accidentally shoved a bead up its ear that got all the way into the auditory canal without the parents knowledge! But I suppose your brilliant medical solution would have been to give the baby a smack or two, right?

    • Alina

      *cries for days, not cries for cries…hah

    • Katie

      You should have given the baby a piece of newspaper to crumple, that would have sorted its ear out. :P

  • CW

    I absolutely believe there is a biomedical basis for ADHD, but too many kids are being falsely diagnosed with “ADHD” when they do not actually have the condtiion. A big driver among certain groups is the ability to qualify for SSI (government disability checks) after welfare reform made it harder for the mom to qualify for a handout. “The Boston Globe” did an expose on it a couple years ago:

  • Sarah

    @Mike: I read a lot of judgmental comments in your response about how people should be parenting, and a lot of assumptions about how people with different parenting styles are lazy or clueless. We here respect the fact that you are doing everything in your knowledge and power (and are succeeding) in being an awesome parent. Respect the fact that not everyone has access to the same opportunities as you and your wife have taken, and that you do not have all the answers.
    That said, I find that there is a lot of misunderstanding as to what ADD/ADHD actually is. People see a rambunctious child and think, “Oh, clearly a case of ADHD,” when, really, it’s probably just a rambunctious child. ADD/ADHD is characterized by so much more than an inability to sit still (and, really, what normal-functioning adult could sit totally still and attentive through complex material for more than 3 hours straight?) As a teacher, I see plenty of students come in and out of my classes with diagnoses of ADD/ADHD. It is a multifaceted disorder, and honestly, only a few of the students diagnosed with ADD/ADHD have been fidgety or rambunctious. As someone who grew up with a sibling with ADD/ADHD, I can tell you that, while they were never hyperactive, no amount of “playing stickball” or threats of “getting smacked” for lack of attention, nor any environmental or dietary changes, have significantly aided their ability to hold their attention nearly as much as behavioral therapy, combined at times with medication, has.
    The point is, brain-imaging scans are revealing that the brains of people with ADD/ADHD are, in fact, different. There is already strong evidence of a genetic component. I think, overall, that misunderstanding of what the disorder actually is has led to misdiagnosis and, ultimately, to stigma towards children and parents of children (and even to adults) with ADHD.

  • The Mommy Psychologist

    I’m a child psychologist so I have to weigh in on this. First, ADHD is a very real, genuine biological disorder. It affects many children and is extremely hard to manage for both the child and the parents. With that being said, ADHD is extremely overdiagnosed. No one within the medical profession would dispute this. There are lots of reasons for this over diagnosis, but I won’t get into all of them here. I do have to point out that there is some truth to the poor parenting and its relation to ADHD. I want to be clear that there are kids who have ADHD and it has absolutely nothing to do with parenting. However, there are also a subset of kids who “look” just like they have ADHD and would qualify for a diagnosis, but it is a result of lack of parenting skills. I can’t tell you the number of times a parent has walked into my office convinced that their child has ADHD and after having spent considerable time working with them on their parenting skills and behavior management techniques, the child who once “looked” like they had ADHD no longer does.

    “The child psychologist who thought she had all the answers to parenting until she became one herself.”

    • Andrea

      I think THIS is what is has come down to and why a lot of people are tired of the phrase, “Oh, well he has ADHD” when a lot of times that’s just not the case.

      Thank you for posting this.

    • Lena

      Yes, I know ADHD is a genuine disorder that has nothing to do with parenting. But sooooo many parents like to use ADHD as an excuse when really their child is acting out because of their lack of parenting skills.

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