Updated 14 June 2017

ADHD kids up divorce risk

Parents of children with ADHD may be more likely than other parents to divorce before their child's eighth birthday, a new study suggests.

Parents of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be more likely than other parents to divorce before their child's eighth birthday, a new study suggests.

The study included nearly 500 couples - 286 had a child with ADHD and 206 had a child without this condition. The researchers found that couples with a child with ADHD were almost twice as likely to divorce before their child turned eight years old. After that age, however, divorce rates were similar in both groups of parents.

Past research has found that compared with couples with a child without ADHD, parents of children with the disorder tend to argue more often and be less satisfied with their marriage. But studies have come to conflicting conclusions regarding the divorce rate.

These latest findings, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, suggest that divorce may be more common in families with young children affected by ADHD.

"Families that 'survive' through that age, perhaps because they are low on all of the risk factors, apparently will make it through the rest of the child's childhood," Dr William E. Pelham Jr., one of the researchers on the study, said in a statement.

Kids with ADHD battle to deal with divorce
Other factors associated with divorce in couples with a child with ADHD included antisocial behaviour in the father; a maternal and paternal history of divorce; parent substance abuse; and depression in the mother. It's also important for parents to realize that a child's ADHD alone will not break up a marriage, according to Pelham, a professor of psychology and paediatrics at the University of Buffalo, State University of New York.

"Certainly we are not suggesting that having a child with ADHD is the only reason these marriages end in divorce," Pelham explained. "Disruptive child behaviour likely interacts over time with other existing stress in the family to spark conflict in a marriage and, ultimately, divorce."

Unfortunately, he and his colleagues point out, children who already have behavioural problems may have a particularly hard time dealing with divorce. With this in mind, the researchers write, health professionals who treat children with ADHD should try to routinely ask parents about their marital relationship.

They add, however, that divorce is sometimes the best option for couples having serious marital conflicts. – (Reuters Health, November 2008)

Read more:
ADHD linked to bullying
ADHD harder on women


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Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation ( She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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