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Social Networks, Caregiver Strain, and Utlization of Mental Health Services Among Elementary School Students at High Risk for ADHD

NCJ Number
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Volume: 42 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2003 Pages: 842-850
Regina Bussing M.D.; Bonnie T. Zima M.D.; Faye A. Gary Ed.D.; Dana M. Mason B.S.; Christina E. Leon MAE; Karabi Sinha MStat; Cynthia Wilson Garvan Ph.D.
Date Published
July 2003
This article examined parental variance for use of social support networks and mental health treatment for their children at high risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The authors questioned whether sociodemographic (SES) factors influence parental social support networks and the receipt of mental health treatment for elementary school students who were measured as being at high-risk for ADHD. A related goal of the research was to examine the relationship between social support network characteristics and caregiver strain among parents. The authors hypothesized that larger network size, geographic proximity, and increased emotions and instrumental support are related to a reduction in caregiver strain. Parents of 266 children who were identified as being at high-risk for ADHD completed standardized instruments that measured network structure and function, DSM-IV diagnoses of disruptive disorders, caregiver strain, and treatment receipt. Relationships among the variables were measured with analysis of variance and multivariate prediction. Results indicated that network characteristics varied by race and SES, but not by the gender of the child. Smaller network sizes were found for African-Americans and those with lower SES scores, however, frequent contact and higher levels of social support were also noted for this group in comparison to their white and high SES counterparts. High levels of parental instrumental support lowered the likelihood of ADHD treatment, while parental strain increased the likelihood of ADHD treatment. The authors concluded that high levels of caregiver strain and low levels of instrumental support are likely to be found among the parents of children at high-risk for ADHD. Clinicians should address the potentially high need for respite care services as part of their treatment plan. Tables, references