Growing Out of Attention Deficit Disorder

Growing Out of Attention Deficit Disorder
Why do some children seem to grow out of Attention Deficit Disorder when they reach adolescence, while others continue to have the negative symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder? This phenomenon has been observed by parents and the scientific community for years. A recent study from Florida International University that was published in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology, found an association between children who are raised by overly critical parents and a lack of resolution of the negative symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder during adolescence. The research was disseminated by the American Psychological Association.

The three year study had a total of 515 participants which included a sample of 388 children with ADHD and a control group. The study looked at the symptoms of the children over the life of the study. It also examined the emotional involvement of the parents and their levels of criticism and overprotectiveness of their child with ADHD. The parental interviews occurred on two occasions that were one year apart. The five minute discussion of each child was recorded. Researchers listened to the audio of the parents talking about their child and scored them according to the harsh comments and overprotectiveness of the parents. Those parents who had a preponderance of harsh comments and were overprotective during more than one interview were associated with having a child who did not grow out of the negative symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder at adolescence.

The researchers were careful to say that there is an association between harsh criticism by the parents and the fact that the negative symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder do not resolve for their children during adolescence. The study did not indicate causality. However, they thought that the children’s symptoms would be improved by reducing parental criticism.

As a long-time educator, in the classroom, I have found that decreasing the level of stress does help to relieve symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, especially difficulty in processing information and maintaining attention. Hyperactivity may also be helped by a reduction in stress, since movement is often used to limit stress reactions. This has happened for any age of child that I have worked with, not just adolescents.

What comes first, the child’s negative symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder causing chaos in multiple settings, or the parents being critical of their child when he is exhibiting symptoms? Does criticism impact whether the child grows out of having Attention Deficit Disorder? Is there a role in brain development that is played by criticism? How is the brain’s architecture affected by criticism?

Some people “grow out of” Attention Deficit Disorder as adults, while others do not. A different set of researchers believes that the reason may be that the brain, for whatever reason, starts to develop in a way that is closer to the norm. Parts of the brain start to show synchrony, or working together. Synchrony between the posterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex is present in people who never had Attention Deficit Disorder and those who appear to have grown out of their negative symptoms of ADD. Of course, more research needs to be conducted because the causes and effects of Attention Deficit Disorder is a complex interplay of many factors


American Psychological Association. (2016, February 8). Persistent ADHD associated with overly critical parents: High levels of criticism over time related to continuation of symptoms, study says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 10, 2016 from

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