Is your child born late in the year? Chances are, he's more likely to be diagnosed with (and medicated against) attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than his peers born a few months earlier.
At least that's what researchers in British Columbia claim in a study recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, according to an article in the Globe and Mail.
What seems like common sense—that more immature kids have less ability to concentrate—will hopefully be a wake-up call for educators, parents and the public about the dangerous of ADHD diagnosing, especially in young children. As a parent, you know yourself how much of a difference a few months can make in your child's development.
“What’s clear is that relative age is influencing who receives this diagnosis and who receives treatment for ADHD,” said the study's lead author and health research analyst of the Therapeutics Initiative at the University of British Columbia, Richard Morrow. “It seems to be that sometimes a child’s…lack of maturity can sometimes be mistaken for…a diagnosis."
After studying more than 937,000 children between ages 6 and 12 from 1997 to 2008, the study was the largest of its kind. December babies were 39 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and 48 per cent more likely to be treated with medication than their peers born in January of the same year.
And ADHD diagnoses are on the rise, particularly among school-aged children.
“It’s important just to be aware of these relative age effects and the fact that a lack of maturity can sometimes lead to this diagnosis of neurobehavioural disorder,” said Mr. Morrow.
Aside from unnecessarily medicating a child, and subjecting them to possible side effects, misdiagnosis may also lead to stigma and bullying.
“I was told I should wait an extra to year to put my son in school, but he was smart enough; he just had trouble sitting still,” said Lori King, a single mother from Victoria, B.C. whose son, Shane, was diagnosed with and treated for ADHD in Grade 1. His birthday is in late December. “I think [ADHD] has more to do with genetics than birthdays.”
Diagnosing such conditions as ADHD is complicated by the fact that there is no simple blood test; it involves a whole host of (arbitrary) evaluations.
Does ADHD have more to do with genetics than birthdays?