In 2011, 11% of students and 20% of high-school boys were diagnosed with ADHD in the U.S., as opposed to 2003, when the numbers were around 7.8% of 4- to 17-year-olds, according to the National Survey of Children’s Health.
But how can this enormous increase be explained? According to an article published earlier today in Quartz, doctor and professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Jeffrey P. Brosco, believes that one of the reasons behind it could be the dramatic rise in academic standards since the 1970s.
Following investigations, Brosco and his colleague Anna Bona, discovered that between the years 1993 and 2005 parents spend 30% more time teaching their three-to-five-year-olds things such as letter and numbers. Moreover, the amount of homework for six-to-eight-year-olds has more than doubled.
However, it is important to note that the two researchers cannot be sure that this is indeed the cause, they can only see that there is a correlation between the two. Brosco sees this thing as not surprising, referencing studies which have shown that sending your child a year early to kindergarten doubles the chances of him needing medication for behavioral issues.
An ADHD expert and clinical psychologist, Michelle Frank, tells Quartz: “There isn’t any causality there. But people with ADHD struggle with executive function, and the more pressure to meet expectations that require a lot of executive function skill, the more you will see increases in people who can’t meet those demands.”
Regardless of the cause, it is important to remember that experts in early childhood development are indeed concerned with this rise in academic standards, the decrease of play, and loss of agency in children who are forced into activities decided by adults.