Youngest children in school are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, new research reveals.
Greater immaturity compared to their fellow classmates may prompt youngsters to receive the behavioural condition diagnosis, a study found.
Younger girls in a year group are 31 per cent more likely to receive a diagnosis, while such boys are 26 per cent more likely to be told they have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the research adds.
Lead author Professor Kapil Sayal from the University of Nottingham, said: ‘Teachers and parents may misattribute a child’s immaturity.
‘This might lead to younger children in the class being more likely to be referred for an assessment for ADHD.’
Youngest children in school are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, new research reveals
ADHD COULD BE CAUSED BY A LACK OF SLEEP
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is exacerbated by not getting to sleep early and using mobiles or tablets before bed, they said.
The theory, proposed at a major scientific conference, may fuel the belief that ADHD is caused – or at least aggravated – by poor parenting.
Study author Professor Sandra Kooij, from the VU Medical Centre in Amsterdam, said: ‘If you review the evidence, it looks more and more like ADHD and sleeplessness are two sides of the same physiological and mental coin.’
How the research was carried out
The researchers analysed data from all children in Finland born between 1991 and 2004 who were diagnosed with ADHD from the age of seven.
In Finland, children start school in the August of the year they turn seven.
Consequently, the eldest in a school year are born in January aged seven years and seven months and the youngest in December aged six years and seven months.
Results reveal younger girls are 31 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.
Boys are 26 per cent more likely to receive the diagnosis.
Between 2004 and 2011, children born in May to August are 37 per cent more likely to be diagnosed, while those born in September to December are 64 per cent, compared to the oldest children born in January to April.
The findings were published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.
Greater immaturity s may prompt youngsters to receive the behavioural condition diagnosis
‘Parents may misattribute a child’s immaturity’
Professor Sayal said: ‘The findings of this research have a range of implications for teachers, parents and clinicians.
‘With an age variation of up to 12 months in the same class, teachers and parents may misattribute a child’s immaturity.
‘This might lead to younger children in the class being more likely to be referred for an assessment for ADHD.
‘Parents and teachers as well as clinicians who are undertaking ADHD assessments should keep in mind the child’s relative age.
‘From an education perspective, there should be flexibility with an individualised approach to best meets the child’s needs.’
The researchers add there should be more flexibility in school start dates to accommodate younger, and therefore more immature, children.
ADHD: The symptoms
ADHD’s symptoms include inattentiveness, restlessness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
These tend to be noticed at an early age and become more obvious when a child’s circumstances change, such as when they start school.
Most cases are diagnosed when children are between six and 12 years old.
The NHS notes many children go through phases of being restless or inattentive and this does not necessarily mean they have ADHD.
How many children are diagnosed?
It is estimated around five per cent of school children around the world have ADHD.
Yet there are large differences internationally in the rates of diagnosis and treatment, which might partially reflect the availability of services.
Perceptions of parents and teachers play an important role in diagnosing ADHD, as the information they provide is used as part of the assessment.