Mothers with ADHD Have More Problems Parenting ADHD Children Than Those Who Don’t

This is a study from my hometown, Vancouver, at the Dept of Psychology at UBC. Charlotte Johnston and C. Murray examined the impact of maternal attention on parenting behaviours, studying 60 mothers of children with ADHD. Some mothers had ADHD some didn’t.


…completed self-report and laboratory measures of monitoring of child behavior, consistency in parenting, and parenting problem-solving abilities. These parenting behaviors were selected because of their established links to the development of child behavior problems.

As predicted, mothers with ADHD were found to be poorer at monitoring child behavior and less consistent disciplinarians compared with mothers without ADHD. There was some evidence to support the prediction that mothers with ADHD were less effective at problem solving about childrearing issues than control mothers.

The differences between the 2 groups of mothers persisted after child oppositional and conduct-disordered behavior were controlled.

The study goes on to suggests that parenting is something that should be given more attention in Adult ADHD research.

I agree. There should be more studies on parenting ADHD children, after all, we study them in school, is the home environment less important?

I always suggest to people who I talk to whose children have ADD that since ADD is the number 2 genetically inherited condition after height (80%), that if a child has it the parents should be screened for it if not for their own benefit, for the child’s benefit. Here’s some evidence why. However, I wondered what they might find in terms of the advantages of mothers with ADD over those who don’t have it? Possibly better connections with the children due to a common trait?

I wonder how many of the women who had ADD had dealt with their ADD themselves and to what extent? I.e., just medication or learning the skills to manage their own ADD?

I wonder what the results would be if they took some ADHD parent training courses like the ADHD Parent Program in Vancouver? Pills can be useful in dealing with ADD but they don’t teach skills.

Here’s what they do:

* A family interview with a counsellor

* Eight group education sessions for parents on the neurobiology and characteristics of ADHD, effective communication, behaviour management strategies, stress and anger management, coping skills, problem solving, esteem building, and information on medications

* Four in-home visits to review how parents are managing new practices and help them resolve issues and prepare their children for success

* A group follow-up session after program completion to review skills and progress

* Referrals to parent support groups such as CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders)

Unfortunately, as someone who has talked to many parents with ADHD in the Vancouver area, I have to tell those living outside of Vancouver that there are no other cities in the area that have a similar program paid by the government (it’s free for qualified people living in Vancouver).

If ADD children are 2nd class citizens, ADD adults are 3rd class ones. When it comes to adults with ADD, we often get little or no resources available to us compared to those given to ADD children(which are not enough), we aren’t viewed as important by the government, health system or the media. Most of the ADD support groups tend to be run by parents mainly for their ADD children, not adults. So any lobbying of govt is usually more focused on children, not adults. ADDA, the Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Association is the exception to this

I think that this type of service should be available to parents in all cities (of a certain size, not a town of 150 people) across North America. What do you think?

23 thoughts on “Mothers with ADHD Have More Problems Parenting ADHD Children Than Those Who Don’t”

  1. This article was really great!

    I have adhd and its a struggle evryday. My son who is 8 has it to and it is tough.I agree with everything you have wrote i wish they had a place out here for parenting someone to show wich direction to go, to really know what u are suppose to expect of yourself and of your children. I dont want someone doing my parenting,i want to learn parenting skills. Especially having to raise a little one with adhd and still trying to handle the two five yr olds i have.

    And u are right theres not enough information out there.

  2. I agree. I have it as well as my 14 year old son and I only recently came to this conclusion: how am I supposed to overcome his barriers if I myself have similar barriers? Having been recently diagnosed myself, many of the patterns that probably led to his current difficulties, were established long ago. While my similar barriers and behaviour patterns give me a unique perspective to simpythize, it does not help correct. There are vary few resources out there to teach a person, (especially an adult), how to change patterns of a lifetime. Furthermore, the expenses alone, I recently found, are much higher medically for AD/HD families than those who are not.. perhaps looking at it from a cost perspective would help prompt more professionals to take notice.

  3. “how am I supposed to overcome his barriers if I myself have similar barriers?”

    Start getting educated on ADHD and get involved with others with ADHD like support groups and demand services. if there’s no ADHD support groups around start your own. One of the main reasons ADDers are second class citizens is they don’t organize (not a natural skill for us but can be learned) and lobby the media and government for services. Parents of ADD kids did so in Vancouver and they got services for them and their children.

    I hear constant complaints that there’s no similar services from other local cities in the lower mainland, and suggest to them that they organize and lobby for such services but no one seems to bother, so nothing is done.

    Professionals won’t take notice unless ADDers get organized and lobby govt’s and do media ADHD awareness campaigns because there are other competing groups out there demanding their time too. No one will do this for us, we need to do it ourselves and that includes ADDers who claim they’re “too busy, too disorganized”.

  4. I would like to know more about the vancouver ADHD parent program. The given link does not respond. I am dealing with a parent with ADHD and wouldrelly help her with some strategies.

  5. Well, I am looking for info on how to be an ADD parent and raise a ADHD child with anxiety and possible ODD and duslexia. It is very hard for me to deal with my child with limited resources. I finally paid to have my 10 year old son tested and the results are above. I was diagnosed with ADD at the age of 12. In my son’s case he can not be medicated because it will only intensify his anxiety issues which means I am stuck trying to make sense of everything when I have ADD myself. Neither one of us can deal with each other and we both become extremely frustrated with each other. It used to be mainly at homework time but as he gets older, and 2 other children became involved, it is running our lives and making it pure HELL. The father is absent due to a divorce and lives 1000 miles away which is good for me but not my son. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,

  6. This article is great. I have add and I have three little ones all under the age of 4. I definitely related to allot of things mentioned. There are not alot of resources available to provide me with information. There are no resources where I live.
    I wish more people would learn about add especially in adults.

  7. Jeri Pusateri

    I’ve just finished your article and I must say thank you. I am not alone. I’m an ADHD mother with an ADD son. He’s now 33 and we have a lifetime of mistakes behind us. All I ever wanted was to be a good mother and imagine my surprise when my very very bright son at age 4 had power over me…Our wills clashed over everything. We’d love and then hate each other right through his teenage years. I gave up many time but in my heart never stopped loving him. Now all he can remember as an adult are the fights and harsh words. He was not diagnosed with ADD until his freshman year in college so we had no idea of what we were dealing with. NO one to help or show us the way. It is important to listen, forgive and always remember that our children are the most precious gift God will ever give. Hopefully through conciling my son and I can find our way back to each other. Angry words never leave a hurt childs mind. If I had only known that maybe I could have done things differently.

  8. Hi Charlotte you may have it but even doctors get other doctors to diagnose them with ADHD so I’d suggest getting a diagnosis, maybe ADHD, maybe something that looks like ADHD, maybe ADHD and some other things.

    You might have rotating ADD support group meetings at different peoples houses in your area. one parent could volunteer to mind the kids while the others meet. maybe have a look at my main website or for some tips. perhaps Top 10 Ways to Manage Adult ADHD

  9. Hi…thanks for the confirmation about something that no one quite understands unless they are living it…the fact that ADD/ADHD is so difficult to manage, within one’s self as well as the ones we are responsible for to help the most, our children. It’s always good to receive confirmation that you are not crazy in regards to your perceptions in life. I think that it is wonderful that Vancouver is
    progressive enough to offer some respect towards the challenges of this condition, but I think that it is perhaps unfair to insinuate that the parents with ADD do not “organize” effectively, simply because they claim to be too busy or to be unsettled. Of COURSE they can’t organize! I have to say that as a mother of three, one child with severe ADHD, and myself with ADD, it is certainly, in my experience 100% impossible to get all the necessary ducks in a row, in order to even get your school to acknowledge his adversity as a legitimate medical condition, let alone organize to successfully educate enough people, and to actually change legislation! Our children take medication and yet we are told on a daily basis that we are simply making excuses for being lazy in life! I spend 1 tenth of my time with perfect clarity about our condition and how it affects our alienated family life…and the other 90% of the time trying to decide whether or not I am simply incompetent in managing even a day, let alone a lifetime! And as a result, my family suffers…and nothing changes…EVER! The level at which ADHD affects people is so variable that i think you should not pigeon-hole parents who can barely manage to get through a day, let alone consistantly rally for political change. Ironically, you may be thinking right now that I am simply making excuses, but for me, this is reality. Society does not understand this brain-type, nor do they WANT to! It’s easier for society to chalk this up to behavioral malfunction, rather than a difference that in some ways should be celebrated for its’ specialness. We never get past the ridicule long enough to appreciate and celebrate though, do we?

  10. I see it as 50/50. there are times when it is very very hard for me to parent my ADHD child. But some times I think its a blessing as well. I am able to help her navigate the world as a person with ADHD. Because I’ve been there and done that. I am able to share with her how I deal with life and help her find ways for her to deal with life. A common theme in our house is you have to be in the world. Aka even if you have to do some things different you still have to do them. Its just part of life.

  11. My 9yr. old Son was finally just Diagosed with ADHD. It took me 4 years, three doctors, five teachers, a couple counsellors and two schools later to get any help. Through this I also have discovered I am also ADHD, as well as problably my mother. The only thing that kept me going through it all was that I didn’t want my son to go through what I went through, it broke my heart everyday to know something was wrong and there was no one to help. Myself, as well as my mother have never had anyone to fight for us and I wasn’t going to let the same happen to my son. I would Love to organize service for my area on Vancouver Island just like Vancouver has. But as a parent trying to over come the same difficulties as my son, organizing being one them. It makes it hard when you have no guide line of what to do or where to start. I am not a leader, I would love to learn how to be. I am a person that needs to be shown the way.

  12. Hi Shelia, adhd is 80% genetic. Too bad you had to go through that, but you can help others avoid what you went through

    maybe start with this section on my website, How to Start & Run Support Groups, Links to 27 Articles & Ebooks at you could just start off with meetings at a coffee shop or at someone’s house. And if you’ve in Vancouver on first or 3rd tuesday check out the support group I lead, Vancouver Adult ADD Support Group or parent support group CHADD Vancouver 

  13. I was just diagnosed with the inattentive type of ADD recently, and I have five children. Ouch. (I’m pretty sure my husband has it too, but he is much stronger on the hyperactivity end of the scale) Now that I’ve read about it, I finally understand why some things overwhelm me so much! Why I have to take my kids to the car one at a time because I just can’t seem to get all of them at once. Why I’m not very consistent or scheduled. Why I have to make a schedule for myself for the day or I waste time, even though I’m always working on something. Why I have to have rules for myself like limited computer time or I waste time or use it to avoid unpleasant tasks. Even though I struggle with these things, I really love being a mom and so it fulfills a certain aspect of hyperfocus for me. I am enthusiastic and energetic when it comes to teaching them things, taking them to museums and exposing them to new things. So even though I may be unorganized and scattered, people often tell me I inspire them to be better mothers (imagine that! I’m surprised too). (I strongly suspect that all five of my kids have it too, did I mention that? double ouch. It is definitely not easy for me to manage their symptoms) I’m definitely going to need some coaching, for myself and because I can’t really coach them, though I have no problem teaching them other things (my oldest son, who has been diagnosed with the inattentive type too, recently scored 100% on two sections of our state level tests). Its definitely a challenge, and there are so few resources out there for us ADD mothers. But it is sure an adventure, too, one I wouldn’t trade.

  14. there are also advantages of having adhd as a parent too Coninne, not only negatives. I don’t coach parenting, I focus on working professionals and entrepreneurs with adhd but other adhd coaches do, you might want to search for them, most of us ADHD coaches offer a free sample session of coaching so you can try us out.

    You might want to read my section on women with ADHD on my 150 page Adult ADHD website and maybe some of Sari Solden’s books on women with adhd.

    Yes it is an adventure living with adhd. We’re not boring people:)

  15. It sounds great! But the chances of having programs like that in the US are slim to none

  16. Pete Quily

    It depends if parents with ADHD are willing to help make it happen vs. magically hope others will, non ADDers usually don’t care about us or demonize/stigmatize us. Parents of ADHD children here in Vancouver BC got an govt run ADHD parent program. And the US is light years ahead of dealing with ADHD vs Canada.

  17. Parents can feel so alone, especially if what helps everyone else just makes matter worse at their house!

    They may hear lots of unsolicited advice, making them feel more guilty and inadequate.

    Community Living Supports, respite care, Wraparound services, and Parent Support Partners were not available to me, but ‘should have been!

    I used to hear people say, “You know all that kid needs!”. or, “We shouldn’t label our children,” or, “We never had AD/HD when I was growing up! Whatever happened to good old fashioned discipline?!” In spite of all the research that’s been done, and treatment options now available, including for adults, there is still so much that’s misunderstood about AD/HD.

    No one is concerned about “overdiagnosis” of Autism, –as if no one should be diagnosed. They’re concerned about why Autism is becoming more prevalent.

    It isn’t just what goes on behind closed doors that needs to be addressed, but people’s fears and mistaken beliefs. Parents should know that others care and want to help instead of making them feel sorry for having admitted they needed it. There is help for AD/HD, now! There’s no excuse to not treat it!

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