Boys, in general, and children born to parents who have low education levels, in particular, are at an increased risk for developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) compared to girls and children born to parents with high levels of education, according to a study of 5,701 children in Olmsted County, Minn.
For the purpose of this study, low levels of education were defined as 12 years or less and high levels of education were defined as 15 or more years.
The findings, published in the September issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, may help physicians and school officials better identify children who might be at risk of having ADHD and provide them with help at an earlier age.
“Given the frequent occurrence of ADHD and potential adverse outcomes associated with this disorder, early identification of children at risk for ADHD is necessary to ensure that they receive prompt and appropriate treatment,” says William Barbaresi, M.D., head of the Mayo Clinic Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and an author of the study.
ADHD is defined as a “persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development.” A previous study by Mayo Clinic reported that about 7.5 percent of children and adolescents are diagnosed with ADHD by age 19. This current study contributes to the growing body of evidence that males are at greater risk for neurodevelopmental disorders compared with females. However, why males are at higher risk for these disorders is unclear.
In other findings researchers reported that low maternal and paternal education levels increased the risk for ADHD in boys more than in girls. However, pregnancy and labor characteristics, low birth weight, and presence of a twin birth were not associated with ADHD.
Researchers analyzed information from birth certificates of all children born in Olmsted County from Jan. 1, 1976, to Dec. 31, 1982. Children were identified with ADHD using medical and school records.
Others involved with the study are: Jennifer St Sauver, Ph.D.; Slavica Katusic, M.D.; Robert Colligan, Ph.D.; Amy Weaver and Steven Jacobsen, M.D., Ph.D., all of Mayo Clinic.