This study examines the impact of pharmacologic treatment of parents with ADHD on their parenting performance. It has long been observed that parental ADHD reduces the efficacy of parenting behaviors and is often associated with higher rates of comorbid problems in their ADHD children (Hinshaw et al, 2000) and with lower response rates to intervention (Sonuga-Barke, et al 2002, Jensen et al, 2007). One prior study (Chronis-Tuscano et al 2010) examined the effects of OROS methylphenidate treatment of mothers with ADHD on parent-child interactions. The results showed some reduction in self-reports of inconsistent discipline and use of corporal punishment. It also found however no significant treatment effects on observed dyadic interactions.
The aim of this investigation was to test the impact of lisdexamfetamine (LDX) on observable parenting behaviors in adults with ADHD using a double-blind randomized design. The study participants consisted of parents of ADHD children (aged 5 – 12 years old) who met criteria for ADHD themselves as measured by the ADHD Rating Scale with adult prompts (>28) and with at least moderate severity on the Clinical Global Impressions Severity Scale. Parents with medical or psychiatric conditions that could be worsened by stimulant medication were excluded from the study. Children were eligible if they met DSM-IV criteria for ADHD along with Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Conduct Disorder, and were excluded if they met criteria for any other mental disorders.
A total of 30 parents (27% male) were enrolled in the study. In the initial open-label three-week LDX trial, subjects were given medication at increasing doses until an optimal dose was determined (either 30, 50 or 70 mg daily). In Phase I, parents were given either placebo or medication during each of the two weeks and were observed in a structured interaction with their children. In Phase II, parents were randomly assigned to receive placebo or medication (at optimal dose) for a 30-day period at the end of which they were assessed during another interaction with their children.
The results of the study revealed that during the parent-child interaction task, parents on LDX versus placebo gave fewer commands, praised their children more, and had children who exhibited lower rates of inappropriate behavior. There was also a trend seen in fewer verbalizations and more responsiveness to their children in parents taking LDX. In addition, lower parental ADHD symptoms at the end of the study period were significantly correlated with greater amounts of giving praise, improved children’s behavior, and reduction in commands given by parents. Side effects reported by subjects in the study were generally mild and well tolerated.
The authors of this paper conclude that LDX helps ADHD parents of children with ADHD to perform better in a structured parent-child interaction task as compared to parents who did not receive LDX. While this is a small N study, the results imply that LDX, an approved long acting stimulant treatment for ADHD in adults, can be helpful for parents of ADHD children who have ADHD themselves by improving their parent-child interactions. It suggests that clinicians should encourage these parents to seek adequate treatment for their ADHD symptoms, and that in so doing, there is a greater likelihood they will be better able to manage their children, and that psychosocial interventions like parent behavior training will be more effective helping ADHD children reduce their negative behaviors.
Chronis-Tuscano AM, Rooney M, Seymour KE, et al (2010). Effects of maternal stimulant medication on observed parenting in mother-child dyads with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 39:581-587.
Hinshaw SP, Owens, EB, Wells KC, et al (2000). Family process and treatment outcome in the MTA: negative/ineffective parenting practices in relation to multimodal treatment. J Abnorm Child Psychol 28:555-568.
Jensen PS, Arnold LE, Swanson JM, et al (2007). Three-year follow up of the NIMH MTA study. JAACAP 46:989-1002.
Sonuga-Barke EJS, Daley D, Thompson M (2002). Does maternal ADHD reduce the effectiveness of parent training for preschool children’s ADHD? JAACAP 41:696-702.