How Parents Manage Decisions Related to Medication to Treat Their Child's ADHD

Wednesday, July 13, 2011: 4:25 PM

Eileen Cormier, PhD, RN
College of Nursing, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

Learning Objective 1: Describe grounded theory methods employed to explore parents’ decision-making processes related to use of psychotropic medication to treat their child’s ADHD.

Learning Objective 2: Identify and discuss themes that represent parents’ described experiences in managing psychotropic medication prescribed for their child’s ADHD.

Purpose: Despite evidence of efficacy, a substantial percentage of children with ADHD either do not begin medication prescribed for their core symptoms or fail to continue treatment. Poor treatment adherence to prescribed medication clearly impacts the treatment out­comes of children with ADHD, yet little is known about factors that influence the decision-making of parents about initiating and/or maintaining pharmacological treatment. The purpose of this study was to explore the processes by which parents make decisions about using psychotropic medication and what factors influence their adherence to medication regimens prescribed for their child’s ADHD.  

Methods:  The study was conducted in the North Florida Panhandle area. Grounded theory guided data collection and analysis. Purposive (theoretical) sampling was used to recruit parents of children between 6 and 12 years of age on stimulant medication for ADHD. Transcribed interviews were analyzed, as they were collected, by constant comparison to discover similarities and differences in the data and identify thematic categories (open coding). 

Results: Twelve mothers and two fathers were interviewed. Their children included 5 girls and 9 boys. All were diagnosed with ADHD and on stimulant and/or other psychotropic medication. The parents described a multi-step process in managing decisions to initiate and continue medication treatment for their child’s ADHD. These stages included: resistance to initiation of medication at first; struggling to get the right kind of help; letting go as child problems become insurmountable; welcoming changes related to medication; managing problems related to medication; and accepting their child’s ADHD and moving on. 

Conclusion: Parents experienced a multi-step process in their efforts to manage medication-related decisions. The findings have implications for guiding health care providers approaches to parents who are making decisions and implementing treatment regimens for their children with ADHD, as well as suggesting directions for future research.