Research from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia suggests that for parents with children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) the choice for which treatment to pursue is strongly linked to what outcomes the parents want. Parents seeking improved academic skills or those looking for behavioral interventions were likely to choose medication or behavioral therapy, respectively. The results underscore the need for collaborative decision-making between parents and doctors when deciding on a course of action for treating children with chronic conditions.

The research team evaluated the views of 148 parents or guardians of children with an ADHD diagnosis. They used the ADHD Preference and Goal Instrument to determine parental preferences for their children’s treatment outcomes. Six months after the initial evaluation, the parents were surveyed again about the type of treatments their children had begun. The researchers observed that the parents who started children on medication or behavioral treatment had lowered goals, which suggests that the treatments have been effective.

The parents who were primarily focused on producing academic results were twice as likely to start their children on a medicinal treatment for ADHD as the other parents. Parents concerned with behavior problems were more likely to start behavioral therapy. There is no cure for ADHD; the most common treatments involve either stimulants (via regular medication) or behavioral therapy. These treatments are not mutually exclusive.

The results of our study highlight the importance of parents’ priorities for their child—improved academic achievement, behavior or interpersonal relationships—in determining what treatment they ultimately choose for their child’s ADHD,” stated Alexander G. Fiks who lead the study. He went on to suggest that when considering treatment options, pediatricians need to describe the advantages and disadvantages of all treatment options to parents.

This research is published in the journal Pediatrics

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