Cutting Edge Psychology

What causes ADHD?

Posted on September 3, 2014 at 1:45 AM

ADHD is casused by out of control brain chemicals- that is why drugs are given to kids, right? Well- no, actually. Despite the stunning success of drug companies in selling this hypothesis to not just the medical profession, but also to society at large, there is scant evidence in its support. Parents and schools, often pushed to the brink of their ability to cope by difficult behaviour from children, are very eager to believe that the child is suffering from aberrant brain chemicals- the drugs often do subdue the child's behaviour, at least initially. However, the fact that drugs change behaviour does not mean that the pre-drugged behaviour was a medical or psychiatric condition, resulting from chemical imbalances in the brain. Alcohol changes behaviour, often making one more gregarious and confident- does this mean that sobriety is a psychiatric condition which is treated by the introduction of alcohol? Clearly not, but this is the dodgy logic used by the medical model when applied to children's difficult behaviour. 

So, what does seem to cause such behaviour? Research recently reported from the UK, following a sample of 19,000 children over many years, has clearly demonstrated that the behaviour which attracts an ADHD label is highly correlated with poverty, the young age of mothers, and the relationship status of parents (single or together). What these results suggest is that the children of parents who are struggling to cope with their lives, perhaps due to poverty, young age or doing it on their own, are more likely to behave in erratic and difficult to manage ways. As no experiment could ever be done with this issue, which may indicate causes of 'ADHD', the best we can do is to look at the correlations. As correlation does not prove causality, is it possible that rather than these characteristics of the parents 'causing' the ADHD of their children, the behaviour of the children 'cause' the factors in their parents, ie. poverty, young age, relationship status? Although the answer is obviously a 'no', the linked research clearly shows that this is not the case. This only leaves the possibility that parental coping (influenced by factors such as poverty, age and relationship status) is the key factor in subsequent children's behaviour. The implication is obvious- ADHD is not a medical or psychiatric condition, but a social-political one, effecting those in the least resourced and powerful positions in society. Drugging such children for their challenging behaviour is simply chemically altering the consequence of social-political inequality. Children's brains are adversely effected by the drugs- there is evidence of long term harmful consequences. Is this the way a civilised society should be treating its most disadvantaged?

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