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Research Spotlight: Does Family Conflict Affect ADHD and Conduct Disorder?

By Inga Dora Sigfusdottir, Professor at Reykjavik University (Corresponding author)

In short, what is the study about?

The study examines the relationship between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorder (CD) and how conflict within families may affect that relationship.Previous research has shown that adolescents with ADHD are more likely to have behavioral problems such as CD than adolescents without ADHD. This study sheds light on one possible explanation as to why around half of adolescents with ADHD develop CD and the other half does not. It is vital to examine these links as while ADHD can increase the likelihood of several adverse life outcomes such as poor school performance, substance use, offending, and suicidal behavior, co-existing CD can increase that risk even further. The results of the study show that the adolescents’ social environment may be at play here. Adolescents with ADHD who had experienced family conflict were more likely to develop CD than the adolescents who had not experienced family conflict.

Angry Toddler

Research found that conduct disorders co-exist in about half of children who have ADHD and that the presence of family conflict appears to be the moderating factor

Previous research has shown that adolescents with ADHD are more likely to have behavioral problems such as CD than adolescents without ADHD. This study sheds light on one possible explanation as to why around half of adolescents with ADHD develop CD and the other half does not. It is vital to examine these links as while ADHD can increase the likelihood of several adverse life outcomes such as poor school performance, substance use, offending, and suicidal behavior, co-existing CD can increase that risk even further. The results of the study show that the adolescents’ social environment may be at play here. Adolescents with ADHD who had experienced family conflict were more likely to develop CD than the adolescents who had not experienced family conflict.

What would be the most important take-home messages from the study?

Having ADHD increases the likelihood adolescents developing CD. Furthermore, this relationship between ADHD and CD is at least partly socially determined. Family conflict can increase the risk of adolescents with ADHD further developing CD, which in turn can increase the risk of various adverse life outcomes. If early action is taken, which focuses on adolescents’ social environment, it may be possible to prevent children and adolescents with ADHD from developing CD.

How are these findings important in practice?

The findings of this study highlight the need to reach out to children and adolescents with ADHD, especially those experiencing conflict in the home, and their families. Practitioners who work with adolescents with ADHD need to familiarize themselves with the adolescents’ social environment and provide them and their families with support in order to prevent the development of CD and/or other behavioral problems.

What other studies can be recommended to further an understanding/application of the findings?

Looking further into the social environment of children with ADHD and other developmental disorders is important to further understand how risk of the development of comorbid CD may be reduced. This study, along with others, shows that the relationship between ADHD and CD may differ between genders. Future studies should thus also explore how gender comes into play as different prevention approaches may be appropriate depending on gender. In the case of the relationship between ADHD and CD, a well-designed intervention study focusing on children and/or adolescents with ADHD who experience family conflict in their homes would be valuable in exploring how the likelihood of those children developing CD can be diminished.

References

Original paper: Sigfusdottir, I.D., Asgeirsdottir, B. B., Hall, H. A., Sigurdsson, J. F., Young, S., & Gudjonsson, G. H. (2017). An epidemiological study of ADHD and conduct disorder: does family conflict moderate the association? Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. doi: 10.1007/s00127-017-1352-6.

Link to the original paper: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00127-017-1352-6

https://www.linkedin.com/in/inga-dora-sigfusdottir-59157315/

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Inga_Sigfusdottir

Homepage of the Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis: http://www.rannsoknir.is/en/home/


 

About Inga Dora Sigfusdottir, Professor, Reykjavik University

Alternative Text

Dr. Inga Dora Sigfusdottir is a Professor at Reykjavik University, a Visiting Professor at Karolinska Institutet and as a Research Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York. She is currently the PI of an interdisciplinary group of scholars in the US and Europe, which is carrying out a longitudinal, bio-social study of Icelandic children. In conjunction with her research activities, she has provided academic leadership as the founder and CEO of a social science research institute, the Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis (ICSRA).

Inga Dora Sigfusdottir on the Web
More on: ADHD, Parenting
Latest update: May 17, 2017