Immaturity and ADHD Diagnosis

by on April 4th, 2012 at 7:00 am

 

ADHD is the most common neurobehavioral condition diagnosed to our children. According to the CDC, 9.5% of children age 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD since 2007 – that’s 5.4 million children! On average, there is a 3% increase in children diagnosed each year. That is an alarming number, and what is leading to this drastic increase? A recent study published in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) found that the youngest children in the classroom are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

This study shows a strong links between the relative ages of children in the classroom and their chance of ADHD diagnosis. Researchers at the University of British Columbia looked at students age 6-12 in British Columbia, where the cutoff date for entering a grade in school is December 31st. They found that students born in December were 39% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than children born in January. This shows that the oldest children are less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. This is known as the “relative-age effect”, which has been shown to affect both academic and athletic performance.

The researchers believe that the “relative-age effect” is leading to misdiagnoses of younger children in the class, due to their lack of maturity. The authors suggest that extreme caution should be taken when diagnosing children for ADHD.  By labeling children as “ADHD” we may be causing more harm than good. If the children think something is wrong with them, they may begin to develop a negative self-image, leading to even more troubles. 

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