Dysfunction in Families of Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Wednesday, 15 July 2009: 2:05 PM

Marie Foley, PhD, RN
College of Nursing, Department of Family Health Nursing, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ

Learning Objective 1: identify the impact on family dysfunction in families of children with ADHD

Learning Objective 2: identify assessment techniques and need for referrals to prevent further family decline in families of children with ADHD.

Purpose:  The prevalence of the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in school age children is increasing worldwide.  Family dysfunction is the most salient indicator of family adversity associated with a diagnosis of ADHD (Cunningham and Boyle, 2002). This study examined the level of family dysfunction in 32 families with children who screened positive for ADHD, ranging in age from 6 to 11 years, and a comparison group of 23 families without a child with ADHD with similar sociodemographic characteristics.

Methods:  A descriptive study design was used to assess ADHD and family dysfunction.

Results: Family dysfunction was calculated using the General Functioning Subscale of the McMaster Family Assessment Device (Byles, Byrne, Boyle, & Offord, 1988) Unhealthy families represented 30.4% (n = 7) of the comparison group and 43.8% (n = 14) of the ADHD group. T-test results indicated family functioning to be significantly different between the comparison families (M = 1.96, SD = .23), t (53) = 3.43, p = .001, and the ADHD families (M = 2.23, SD = .35). Families with children who screened positive for ADHD had higher levels of family dysfunction.

Conclusion: Children identified with behavioral characteristics which put them at risk for a diagnosis of ADHD should be targeted for early assessment and preventive intervention in an attempt to prevent further family decline. Earlier identification and intervention with these families may result in healthier family functioning and better child outcomes.