We already know that grown ups who end up being the perpetrators and victims of domestic violence are typically people who have been exposed to domestic violence themselves, at a younger age. Children who are exposed to domestic violence or any other form of violence are traumatized and may be affected for years to come.
Now, researchers are suggesting that children who are exposed to domestic violence before the age of three are at a greater risk of having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Exposure to intimate partner violence and maternal depression before the age of 3 may increase a child’s risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine looked a population of more than 2,000 children, and found that those whose parents had reported depression or intimate partner violence were significantly more likely to suffer from ADHD as they grew older.
“It wasn’t surprising, from the lens of me being a behavioral pediatrician,” said Dr. Nerissa Bauer, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the IU School of Medicine and the lead study author. “I routinely encounter mental health and behavioral problems in children, and this supports my initial hunch that I was seeing an increase in that.”
In addition to the apparent increased risk of ADHD, Bauer and her colleagues also saw an increase in prescriptions for drugs used to treat ADHD.
“What it highlights is that as pediatricians, we have a responsibility and a duty to actively monitor children for behavioral mental health issues,” Bauer said.
But she says, time constraints can make that difficult.
“Pediatricians know that it’s important to screen. However, in a typical 20-minute visit, it’s really hard to balance priorities.”
ADHD is often found alongside conditions such as depression and anxiety, said Atlanta pediatrician and CNN Health expert Dr. Jennifer Shu, who was not involved in the study, and “could just be a marker for other mental health problems… which may be linked to the intimate partner violence or maternal depression.”
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