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Involved Parents Can Help Kids with ADHD Beat the Odds Against Later Substance Abuse

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Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects a significant number of school-aged children. The symptoms of the condition frequently lead to negative social behaviors and persistent academic struggles. Usually the impulsivity and hyperactivity associated with ADHD make it tough for kids to find a way to fit in.

When kids are rejected by their peers, they tend to gravitate toward others who are also struggling socially and academically. Not surprising then that many teens with ADHD often end up abusing alcohol. Studies have repeatedly drawn a link between the presence of ADHD and a heightened risk for substance abuse in adolescence.

One thing the studies have failed to do has been to consider how family environment may impact that risk. Thankfully, one researcher at the University of Pittsburgh decided to investigate how early parental involvement may or may not impact later drinking in kids with ADHD. In her study Brooke Molina separated her subjects into two groups: one group was comprised of kids ages 11-14 with ADHD and the second group of kids with ADHD who were between 15-17 years of age. Molina examined the level of parental involvement in both groups but was especially interested in the younger group.

Ms. Molina found that regardless of how severe the child’s ADHD, when parents made it a point to stay aware and involved with their child’s activities, the likelihood that they would abuse alcohol dropped dramatically. Just asking questions like "Where are you going?", "What will you be doing?" and "Who else will be there?" seemed to turn the odds back in favor of a healthy adolescence. The more involved the parents were in their teens’ life, the less likely the child was to seek solace in wrong behaviors. Three cheers for Ms. Molina and her research which underscores the fact that the greatest influence in a child’s life is a parent’s love and concern. In this case, it even trumps a child’s very real mental health challenges.

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