I Have ADHD and My Child Has ADHD
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Read More: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2631569/
Debate continues about rates of separation and divorce of ADHD couples, but there is little debate that marital dissatisfaction tends to be a major factor among spouses affected by an ADHD partner.
ADHD people function differently on a cognitive level. They process information differently. They show love and often accept love quite differently. While this may be overlooked initially in a honeymoon period, it often eventually grates the nerves of the non-ADHD spouse. Frequently the non-ADHD spouse feels abandoned, left to manage the entire household alone.
Having children helps many couples bond, but for the spouse of an ADHD partner, it becomes a burden. Specific ADHD spousal tendencies such as the inability to complete tasks, be on time, maintain organization or cleanliness become severe irritants when an infant’s needs aren’t met.
Add an ADHD child to this mixture and the relationship becomes even more volatile. The two ADHD family members, for example, father and son, understand the others’ tendencies. While this may be fun to those two parties as they accept their habits without question, the ADHD child sometimes grows to adulthood with the same problems his ADHD parent has. It also tends to alienate the other spouse as she feels the males live in their own world.
The attributes of the ADHD spouse initially are enticing and fun; they are exciting, spontaneous, intelligent, creative, and think outside the box. This places the non-ADHD spouse in a predicament; their love is strained by the actions of their spouse. Realizing their spouse functions differently isn’t enough to quell the feelings of abandonment or unrequited love.
When it involves ADHD, psychologist William Pelham is one of the most prolific researchers around. Pelham and his colleague Dr. Brain Wymbs published a longitudinal study (Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Vol 76(5), Oct 2008, 735-744.) that tracked 282 families with and 206 without ADHD children. They found that couples who have a child diagnosed as ADHD are almost twice as likely to divorce or become estranged compared to couples without an ADHD child. A simple dynamic is causal: ADHD children can be stressful for parents thus magnifying conflicts between spouses. ADHD children also have oppositional behaviors which increase stress at home.
“We have known for a long time that kids can be stressful for their parents. What we show is they can be really stressful and can lead to marital dissatisfaction and divorce,” said Pelham, who works at the State University of New York at Buffalo. “What it means is ADHD should not be treated without involving the parents in the treatment.”
The researchers found that parents with ADHD children tended to reach the point of divorce or separation faster than their peers. Parents of ADHD children are distinctly aware that battles over homework, chores, discipline are key stressors that provide further conflict between spouses. It is understandable that 22.7 percent for parents of kids with ADHD were divorced by the time the children were 8 years old as opposed to only 12.6 percent of the parents of non-ADHD children.
“Parents of children with ADHD report less marital satisfaction, fight more often, and use fewer positive and more negative verbalizations during child-rearing discussions than do parents of children without ADHD especially if the child also has conduct or oppositional problems,” Pelham and Wymbs noted in their paper.
The researchers discovered that regardless of whether parents had manageable or difficult children, if parents had an ADHD child they were three times as likely to be negative toward each other as parents who did not. Stress was up and patience was thin.
So, while the dynamics are difficult when an ADHD parent has an ADHD child and a non-ADHD spouse, they are not insurmountable; it often depends on the tolerance of the non-ADHD spouse. Having a regimen of behavior shaping, cognitive skill training, and organization also helps.