Parenting style affects hyperactivity

Children whose parents cope less well with child behavior problems are significantly more likely to be hyperactive. Researchers Lianne Woodward, University of Auckland, New Zealand; Eric Taylor, Institute of Psychiatry, London, England; and Linda Dowdney, University of Surrey, Guildford, England, found that poor coping skills such as responding aggressively or using harsh discipline methods were significantly associated with hyperactivity.

Twenty-eight children with ADHD were compared to 30 matched control children in their classrooms . The aim of the study was to identify parenting and family-life factors associated with hyperactivity. The researchers evaluated the relationship between hyperactive behavior and different parental behavior management techniques and discipline. They also assessed the effect on hyperactive behavior of environmental factors such as the psychological health of the care giver, the family’s social support and the quality of the marital relationship.

Aggressive discipline best predictor

After adjusting for the presence of child conduct problems, Woodward et al. found that ineffective coping, disciplinary aggression, and parents’ feelings of hostility and anger were significantly associated with hyperactivity. Children whose parents coped less well with child behavior problems or who used harsh and aggressive discipline methods were two to three times more likely to be hyperactive. Disciplinary aggression was the best single predictor of hyperactivity and successfully classified 80 percent of the hyperactive and control children in this study. This effect remained true even after the effects of conduct problems, parental mental health and poor parent coping skills were taken out.

Problem behaviors associated with hyperactivity — poor sustained attention, over-activity and distractibility — appear to present challenges for parents that affect their ability to raise their children effectively and may contribute to the persistence and worsening of these behaviors.

Woodward et al. report the good news is that there is some evidence that parent training can improve the behavior of hyperactive children. They suggest that intervention programs should concentrate on re placing the parent’s emotionally charged power-assertive management techniques with more proactive and authoritative ones. These more effective techniques include such things as guiding a child using inductive reasoning rather than coercive methods, appreciating a child’s accomplishments, encouraging independence, providing comfort and understanding when a child is upset, being physically affectionate and being open about both positive and negative feelings.

“The Parenting and Family Functioning of Children with Hyperactivity,” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry ,Volume 39, Number 2, February 1998 ,pp. 161-169.

Published in ERN May/June 1998 Volume 11 Number 5

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