Parenting Resources

ADHD update - Early academics

A new study shows a possible correlation between the prevalence of ADHD and the increasing academic demands placed upon younger children.  Dr. Jeffrey Brosco at the University of Miami evaluated the time spent studying and its association with ADHD.  Between 1981 and 1997, the percentage of preschool children enrolled in full-day programs increased from 17 percent in 1970 to 58 percent in the mid 2000s.  As the number of children in full time programs increased, so did the time spent teaching the preschool children letters and numbers – by 30 percent.  The 6 – 8 year olds in 1997 spent approximately two hours a week on homework, versus less than one hour a week ten years earlier.     The authors are concerned that early academic demands negatively affect young children and state, “Beginning kindergarten a year early doubles the chance that a child will need medications for behavioral issues.”

Jeffrey P. Brosco, Anna Bona. Changes in Academic Demands and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Young Children. JAMA Pediatrics, 2016; DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.4132

Another study appears to confirm this relationship.  Dr. Chen and colleagues evaluated data from over 375,000 children between the ages of 4 and 17 years.  They compared children who entered school at the youngest age possible according to Taiwan law versus those who entered when approximately 11 months older. The younger children had an increased risk of being diagnosed with ADHD as well as being prescribed medication. 

Mu-Hong Chen, Wen-Hsuan Lan, Ya-Mei Bai, Kai-Lin Huang, Tung-Ping Su, Shih-Jen Tsai, Cheng-Ta Li, Wei-Chen Lin, Wen-Han Chang, Tai-Long Pan, Tzeng-Ji Chen, Ju-Wei Hsu. Influence of Relative Age on Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Taiwanese Children. The Journal of Pediatrics, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.02.012

As you consider preschool and kindergarten placements for your children, take these studies into account. A child's "work" truly is play (especially outdoor, unstructured play) - that is the best environment to allow their creativity and problem solving skills to develop.  Structured academic studies too early in life may actually be more detrimental than beneficial.