printer-friendly version   Printer-Friendly Version  

ADHD in Childhood Linked to Adult Criminal Behavior

A new study on childhood ADHD has parents worried.  According to new research published in the September 2009 issue of the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics, kids with ADHD are twice as likely to commit theft or sell drugs in their teens and adult years.  This study surveyed over 10,000 adolescents with ADHD during their childhood and adult years, and is the first to confirm the relationship between ADHD and criminal activity.

According to the study's lead author, Jason Fletcher of the Yale School of Public Health, the findings of this study suggest that kids with ADHD are an at-risk group.  Whether they're hyperactive or inattentive, the research findings definitely show a relationship between these symptoms and adult crime. The researchers are planning to investigate whether stimulant medications like Ritalin reduce or aggravate the likelihood of illegal activities in childhood.  They also intend to perform a study on symptoms of ADHD in childhood and later employment and earnings.

If you really think about it, this study does not provide a lot of valuable information beyond sensationalizing childhood ADHD.  Although children with ADHD are indeed more likely to drop out of school, do drugs, become teenage parents, or have behavioral problems in their teen years, this only occurs if they do not receive adequate treatment.  As long as the disorder is caught in time and the parents play an active role in treatment, children with ADHD can become upstanding citizens with not so much as a parking ticket on their record.

The other problem with this study is that it further adds to the stigma of childhood ADHD.  Kids with ADHD already suffer from a lot of difficulties to begin with - the inability to keep up with schoolwork, get along with their peers, or please their teachers.  These pressures take a toll on their self-esteem, and further labeling kids with ADHD as an "at risk group" does more damage than good.  Instead of being suspicious of children with ADHD and preparing ourselves for the crimes they haven't committed yet, parents and teachers can help find ways to raise kids' self-esteem, accommodate their special needs, and teach them the skills they can use to succeed in life. 

With a comprehensive treatment plan, enough attention, and parental support, kids with ADHD can overcome their symptoms and prove this stigma wrong.