Siblings of ADHD Children Face Psychosocial Challenges

November 5, 2021
Kenny Walter

Kenny Walter is an editor with HCPLive. Prior to joining MJH Life Sciences in 2019, he worked as a digital reporter covering nanotechnology, life sciences, material science and more with R&D Magazine. He graduated with a degree in journalism from Temple University in 2008 and began his career as a local reporter for a chain of weekly newspapers based on the Jersey shore. When not working, he enjoys going to the beach and enjoying the shore in the summer and watching North Carolina Tar Heel basketball in the winter.

Few studies have focused on the psychosocial adjustments of siblings of children with ADHD.

Siblings of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to suffer from psychosocial adjustments, including mental health issues and more family conflicts, according to new research.

A team, led by Stiam Orm, Division of Mental Health Care, Innlandet Hospital Trust, BUP Lillehammer, reviewed all studies examining psychosocial adjustment in siblings of children with ADHD to identify any research gaps that can be closed.

A Challenging Upbringing

Sidling’s of children with neurodevelopmental disorders are at a higher risk for psychosocial maladjustment than the general population. But this risk differs between the different neurodevelopment disorders and siblings of children with ADHD have largely been understudied in this regard.

The investigators culled various databases for studies that relied on clinical ADHD diagnosis, used control groups for sibling data, or studies that examined within-sibling sample associations. Overall, they identified 15 studies examining psychosocial adjustment involving a total of 3729 siblings younger than 18 years.

Findings

Using the data found, the investigators identified 4 main psychosocial adjustment categories—mental health (n = 10), family environment (n = 4), quality of life (n = 1), and resilience (n = 1).

In the mental health category, the majority of studies showed siblings had more mental health issues than the control groups, with small to large effect sizes.

However, a few studies did not find a difference.

In the studies focusing on family environments, siblings generally experienced more family conflicts and less support than control groups, with medium effect sizes.

In addition, siblings overall had poorer quality of life and less resilience than control groups, with large effect sizes.

“Siblings of children with ADHD display poorer psychosocial adjustment than controls,” the authors wrote. “However, research is scarce and more studies are needed that examine associations between psychosocial variables and effects of interventions.”

ADHD and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic upended the routine of many in a number of ways, including sleep, diet, and exercise. While many have struggled with this change, it was particularly challenging for patients with ADHD.

A team, led by Rose Swansburg, MBT, Cumming School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University of Calgary, examined the impact of the pandemic on lifestyle habits and mental health symptoms for pediatric patients with ADHD in Canada.

In the study, the researchers conducted an online survey across Canada to caregivers of pediatric patients with ADHD between 5-18 years old. The surveys assessed depression (PHQ-9), anxiety (GAD-7), ADHD (SNAP-IV), and lifestyle behaviors.

Overall, there were 587 surveys analyzed from responders with a mean age of 10.14 years old.

The researchers found 17.4% and 14.1% of respondents met the criteria for moderately severe to severe depression and anxiety symptoms respectively. The pediatric patients who met the SNAP-IV cut-off scores for inattention (73.7%), hyperactivity/impulsivity (66.8%), and oppositional defiant disorder (38.6%) behaviors.

The caregiver respondents reported changes in sleep (77.5%), eating (58.9%), exercise (83.7%), and screen use (92.9%) in their ADHD child.

The study, “A Scoping Review of Psychosocial Adjustment in Siblings of Children with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder,” was published online in Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders.


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