ADHD Risk Is Higher Among Children Born To Young Parents

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Teenage parents are more likely to have children with ADHD.
IN PHOTO: Pregnant teenagers queue for a free pre-natal check up during a medical mission for teenage pregnancy conducted by the aid agency United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) in the slum community of Vitas in Tondo, Manila August 31, 2012. REUTERS/Erik De Castro (PHILIPPINES - Tags: POLITICS HEALTH SOCIETY POVERTY) Reuters

A large-population study suggests that children born to teenage parents have a high risk of developing Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. In a study of approximately 50,000 individuals in Finland, the research team found that there is a 50 percent risk of ADHD among children who are born to a parent aged below 20. Furthermore, there is a much higher risk of ADHD if both parents are aged below 20.

The study, which was published online by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, investigated several factors to come up with the most accurate findings; these parameters include marital status, parental psychiatric history, maternal socioeconomic status and antenatal details, such as smoking, birth history and the child’s birth weight. According to the information collated by the researchers, they found that children whose mothers were aged 29 and above during delivery have a significantly lower risk of ADHD.

Lead researcher Roshan Chudal of the University of Turku, Finland,  said that while ADHD may be inherited from a parent who has a genetic risk, the children of young parents are most likely to be exposed to several social and economic triggers that can increase the risk of ADHD. "Young parents are a specific group, in that they have their own problems already. They often come from parents who were already young, and then they may also have some genetic risk for ADHD," she adds.

Senior author Andre Sourander, also from the University of Turku, comments that these findings call for attention as this is a public health issue. Although a stigma is set to be associated with them, the researchers are currently planning programmes that can help to address the high risk of ADHD and other behavioural problems among children born to young parents.

Yoko Nomura, an associate professor in Department of Psychology at Queens College in New York, comments about the study and what she thinks of the findings. She said that the parental age shouldn’t be the bigger issue, as the relationship is most likely environmental. "[The researchers] speculated that younger people may be more impulsive or more stressed, more this, more that. But we don't know, and they are just mixing all these risks into one bag," she said. Furthermore, Nomura comments that the study posted several questions but have left them unanswered.

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