Increase in ADHD Mirrors Academic Demands

A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics has found a possible correlation between the rise in ADHD diagnoses and greater academic demands placed on young children.

According to an article in Science Daily, the study, led by Jeffrey P. Brosco, MD, PhD at the Miami Miller School of Medicine, suggests that over the past several decades time spent on academics for young children has increased significantly, “resulting in some children being seen as outliers and ultimately being diagnosed with ADHD.”

Greater Demands

In a review of educational and public policy studies over the past 40 years, Dr. Brosco and graduating medical student Anna Bona were surprised to find a marked increase in academic demands that mirrored the rise in ADHD diagnoses over the same period.

From 1981 to 1997, time spent teaching 3- to 5-year-olds letters and numbers increased 30 percent. They also discovered that the percentage of young children enrolled in full-day programs increased from 17 percent in 1970 to 58 percent in the mid-2000s. And 6- to 8-year-olds in 1997 saw time spent on homework increase to more than two hours a week, when a decade earlier their peers were studying less than an hour.

Dr. Brosco notes that this study raises questions that should be addressed in further research. He also is clear that this work in no way should be viewed as an indictment of early childhood education. Rather, he maintains that children should be involved in age appropriate and developmentally appropriate activities. As the article concludes:

What’s important is that kids experience free play, social interactions and use of imagination. For parents eager to spur academic achievement, Brosco recommends putting away the flash cards and worksheets, and instead playing a board game, cooking a meal or reading a book together.