Ritalin Use Higher in Children of Divorced Parents
According to Dr. Strohschein, a sociologist at the University of Alberta, children whose parents are divorced are at a higher risk of Ritalin use as compared to children whose parents stay together. He found that the risk of Ritalin use is twice as high in children of divorced parents.
Dr. Strohschein conducted this analysis because she was curious about the reason for the increase in prescriptions to children for Ritalin over the last two decades. She wondered if divorce was the triggering stress factor and was creating adjustment problems and inappropriate behavior in children leading to a prescription for Ritalin.
For the purpose of the analysis, Dr. Strohschein used data from a longitudinal survey that was conducted between 1994 and 2000. The survey included interviews of five thousand children living in two-parent households and with no Ritalin use.
Between 1994 and 2000, parents of 13.2 percent of these children divorced. Ritalin use among children of parents who stayed together was 3.3 percent as compared to 6.6 percent for children whose parents divorced. These findings were compatible with previous research that also showed that single-family households were more likely to have children who are prescribed Ritalin. It is thus logical to conclude that parental divorce is a major factor at play here and puts children at greater risk.
While it may be possible that the stress of divorce results in mental health problems in children from broken families, Dr. Strohschein also suggests that there might be another possibility. According to her, ADHD has a genetic component and there is a chance that parents who pass on the gene are the ones who are more likely to get a divorce. Thus, personality features that lead to divorce may be connected to the genes of the parent and may be passed on to their children.
Another possibility could be that parents who are in the process of a divorce or have divorced recently may take extra precaution and consult a doctor because they have a fear that their children may develop some mental health issues. In such cases, doctors may be prescribing Ritalin when there may not actually be a need for it.
Dr. Strohschein emphasizes that there is a need to educate both parents and doctors that it is not necessary that all children will develop mental health problems after divorce in their family. Medications like Ritalin should only be prescribed to children who really need it.