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Childhood ADHD Symptoms: Association with Parental Social Networks and Mental Health Service Use during Adolescence



This study examines the associations of childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) risk status with subsequent parental social network characteristics and caregiver strain in adolescence; and examines predictors of adolescent mental health service use.


Baseline ADHD screening identified children at high risk (n = 207) and low risk (n = 167) for ADHD. At eight-year follow-up, parents reported their social network characteristics, caregiver strain, adolescents' psychopathology and mental health service utilization, whereas adolescents self-reported their emotional status and ADHD stigma perceptions. Analyses were conducted using ANOVAs and nested logistic regression modeling.


Parents of youth with childhood ADHD reported support networks consisting of fewer spouses but more healthcare professionals, and lower levels of support than control parents. Caregiver strain increased with adolescent age and psychopathology. Increased parental network support, youth ADHD symptoms, and caregiver strain, but lower youth stigma perceptions were independently associated with increased service use.


Raising children with ADHD appears to significantly impact parental social network experiences. Reduced spousal support and overall lower network support levels may contribute to high caregiver strain commonly reported among parents of ADHD youth. Parental social network experiences influence adolescent ADHD service use. With advances in social networking technology, further research is needed to elucidate ways to enhance caregiver support during ADHD care.

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