Research reveals the impact of COVID-19 on young people with ADHD

Compared to their peers, youth with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are more likely to experience significant impairments in academic functioning and mental health. Mix in the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions are even greater.

New research found that young people with ADHD were more likely than their peers to experience symptoms of COVID-19, sleep problems, fear and anxiety related to risk of infection, difficulties distance learning problems, family conflicts, rule-breaking behaviors and a lack of academic preparation during the first year of the pandemic. Additionally, young people with ADHD are less likely than their peers to be sensitive to factors, such as parental monitoring and school engagement, that can mitigate the impact of pandemic school closures.

The article, “Impact of COVID-19 on Youth With ADHD: Predictors and Moderators of Response to Pandemic Restrictions on Daily Life,” by Lehigh University School Psychology Program doctoral students, George DuPaul, Professor of School Psychology , and colleagues at Ohio University and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, was published in the Attention Disorder Diary.

The results indicate that young people with ADHD may need more specialized support during the transition to school-based learning and beyond.

Young people with ADHD were and are particularly vulnerable to disruptions in learning at school due to the pandemic, particularly with regard to engagement in learning, increased anxiety and increased conflict with parents. family members ; and they are less sensitive to factors that are useful for young people without ADHD.”

George DuPaul, Professor of School Psychology, Ohio University and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Using data from a large national longitudinal study of young people in the United States called the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, researchers were able to select a large sample of young people who met the diagnostic criteria for ADHD and then create a sample of young people without ADHD who were matched on race, sex and age. Parents and young people responded to several surveys during the first year of the pandemic and the researchers used survey data from May 2020 and March 2021 for their analyses.

“The ABCD study is an ongoing 10-year study which, of course, has been heavily impacted by the pandemic. In addition to continuing to collect their regular data throughout the pandemic, the ABCD team has added measures specific to COVID-19 to better understand how young people across the country are coping with this pandemic,” says Eliana Rosenthal, a doctoral student in psychology at Lehigh School and lead author of the study. “Fortunately, we were able to use this data to determine how young people with ADHD in particular were coping with the pandemic.”

Families of young people with ADHD, educators, and mental health and healthcare professionals can benefit from the results of this study.

“Ultimately, the results of our study highlight that typical interventions that previously supported young people with ADHD, such as personalized schedules and school engagement, are unlikely to work in the face of this pandemic,” Rosenthal says. “Knowing this information can better inform families, educators, and clinicians who are developing interventions and support systems for young people with ADHD in the future.”


Journal reference:

Rosenthal, E. et al. (2021) Impact of COVID-19 on young people with ADHD: predictors and moderators of response to pandemic restrictions on daily life. Attention Disorders Journal.

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