What’s causing an increase in the number of children suffering from ADHD?

What’s causing an increase in the number of children suffering from ADHD?

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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.

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Caroline Parker has a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies from the University of Bucharest. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in the same field. She specializes in gender issues, ethnic minorities, and has a passion for literature, but she loves to find out more about any subject she comes across. When she is not busy with her studies, she is attending conferences, seeing plays which deal with contemporary issues in society, traveling, taking photos for her Instagram account, and watching beauty related vlogs. She aims to become a published writer and to pursue a Ph.D. is the field of gender studies.