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Adopted Youth Have Slight Risk for ADHD

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, May 06, 2008 11:10 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Mental Health, ADHD, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Defective Drugs

Adopted children have a slight increse in ADHD and acting out.



IMAGE SOURCE: WikiMedia Commons/ adopted Chinese girl, 1999/author: Marc Davis


In the first study of its kind, University of Minnesota researchers wanted to know whether adopted adolescents have an increased risk for behavioral and emotional problems.

This study finds that while adopted children are mostly psychologically healthy, they have a slightly increased risk of behavior problems such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) than non-adopted peers.

"These are kids who argue with their parents, who refuse to follow through on chores, maybe argue with their teachers, blame other people for their own mistakes," says Margaret Keyes, a University of Minnesota research psychologist told NPR.

Researchers looked at 540 adolescents were who not adopted and compared them with a group of adoptees, 514 foreign adoptions and 178 domestic.

The children were roughly 15 years old when they received psychiatric assessments on all subjects. For comparison, they also interviewed a control group of teens born to biological parents.

While most were “overwhelmingly psychologically healthy,” adopted children were found to be twice as likely to have contact with a mental health professional as non-adoptees. 

Researchers found that 7 out of 100 adolescents met the criteria for ADHD while twice that was found among adopted adolescents.  ADHD interferes with an ability to concentrate and sit still.  It also may lead to uncontrolled impulsive behavior.  

The ODD risk nearly doubled.  Oppositional Defiant Disorder is defined as children who are hostile toward authority figures in a way that impairs their daily functioning.

There was no serious increase in depression, anxiety, aggression and vandalism.

Initially, researchers thought that foreign adoptees might be at higher risk of psychiatric disorders because of ethnic discrimination upon entering school. 

Foreign born children did seem to undergo higher levels of separation anxiety while U.S. born children had higher rates of externalizing disorder.

Lead author, Margaret Keyes said her study should not dissuade adoptive parents. She notes that boys are more likely than girls to have disruptive behavior, but she tells the L.A. Times, “no one is overly concerned when they give birth to a son.”

David Brodzinsky's own research at Rutgers University finds that adoptive parents are better educated, highly motivated and better off financial. They may be more likely to seek help from mental health professionals when emotional problems arise.

The study also reveals that adopted children, mostly from South Korea, were slightly less likely to have ADHD than adopted children born in the U.S.  That may be due to health conditions before birth impacted by alcohol or drugs.

More than 1.5 million adopted children under the age of 18 live in the U.S. and more than 100,000 are added every year.  

The study is published in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.  #

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