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Maternal Depression, Violence at Home May Raise Child's ADHD Risk
Date:2/7/2013

ological effects."

The study, which appeared online Feb. 4 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, included more than 2,400 children who were 3 years old. Parents who brought them to four different pediatric community clinics filled out questionnaires regarding their personal history of depression and domestic violence while in the pediatricians' waiting room.

Fifty-eight caregivers reported a history of intimate partner violence and depression before their child turned 3. In addition, 69 reported a history of intimate partner violence and 704 had symptoms of depression during this time frame. Close to 66 percent of the parents reported neither depression nor intimate partner violence. Children who were exposed to intimate partner violence and/or parental depression were four times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD by the age of 6.

What's more, 2.9 percent of kids whose parents reported depression received prescription drugs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, compared with 1.6 percent of children whose parents did not report a history of depression. Medications included those that treat anxiety, depression and sleep problems.

While the study showed an association, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link between intimate partner violence and/or maternal depression and likelihood of an ADHD diagnosis.

Experts said the findings make sense, but more study is needed.

"This study adds to the already robust literature revealing that early life experiences can have profound effects on brain development," said Dr. Michael Duchowny, a pediatric neurologist at Miami Children's Hospital. "While heredity is known to play a strong role in the expression of ADHD symptoms, the study further suggests that additional environmental factors operating during the formative years of brain maturation are also significant."

New York City-based child psychoanalyst Dr. Leon Hoffman said the new findings make sense. "Unquestionably, in
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