The date a child is born could determine whether they are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by doctors, a new study carried out in Taiwan suggests.
The cut off date for Taiwanese children to start the school year is August 31 which results in children born in August being almost a year younger than their fellow classmates born in September. The study suggests the immaturity of younger children can be mistaken for signs of ADHD and that many of these children are at a higher risk of being diagnosed and receiving medication.
According to EurekAlert, Dr. Mu-Hong Chen, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan together with his colleagues, gathered and examined data from 378,881 children aged 4-17 years from 1997 to 2011 and evaluated the influence of those children being diagnosed with ADHD and/or prescribed ADHD medication.
Chen, also the study’s lead author, suggests that a child who’s brain is not as developed as a child one year older is “more likely to have some inattention, impulsive and hyperactive symptoms that can affect their academic performance“. This can lead to assumptions that the child is suffering from ADHD.
As reported over at Live Science, the study found that the results did not show the same for teenagers. Chen says that relative age “may have more of an impact on younger children than on adolescents”.
Relative age within a grade may have more of an impact on younger children than on adolescents, because as age and maturity levels increase during the teenage years, the difference in neurocognitive development within a grade may decrease
Previous research on ADHD, conducted in the United States and Canada showed similar results that a child’s age in a class does affect ADHD diagnosis. The Taiwanese study comes at a time when findings are showing a worldwide significant increase in ADHD in both children and adolescents. Chen tells of the importance of “considering the age of a child within a grade” when it comes to diagnosis and medication,
Our findings emphasize the importance of considering the age of a child within a grade when diagnosing ADHD and prescribing medication to treat ADHD.
The study has been published in The Journal of Pediatrics.