New database identifies the children with ADHD who respond well to behavioural therapy

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Children with ADHD, who have severe symptoms of ADHD or behavioural problems, and children with ADHD from single-parent families, should be given priority when it comes to behavioural therapy. If these groups of children are not treated promptly, the problems facing them and those around them increase faster than they do for other groups of children with ADHD. These are the conclusions of a group of researchers from the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), VU University Amsterdam and KU Leuven, headed by senior researcher Annabeth Groenman from the UMCG, after conducting a large number of studies into this field and compiling their results in one large database. This allowed them to see which sub-groups responded best to behavioural therapy. The results of Groenman’s research have been published in the Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Behavioural therapy reduces the symptoms of ADHD and tackles the behavioural problems facing children with ADHD. It also relieves the pressure on both them and those around them. However, this treatment is not equally effective for all children with ADHD. It is important to understand who responds well to behavioural therapy and who is less suitable for this treatment, so that target groups can be identified more accurately.

The effects of behavioural therapy

Researcher Annabeth Groenman headed a large-scale study that involved a staggering 33 researchers from around the world, who all shared their data about the effectiveness of the treatment with her. All of the data were used to generate one large dataset. Groenman then reviewed the effects of behavioural therapy on 2,200 children with ADHD below the age of 18. She analysed the effect on the symptoms of ADHD, on the behavioural problems and on the functional impairment that they experienced in their daily lives.

Identification of sub-groups

The research shows that behavioural therapy for children with ADHD can help them to control their attention problems, hyperactivity, impulsiveness and behavioural problems. It also reduces the extent to which the children and those around them experience functional impairment due to their behaviour. In addition, the researchers identified a number of sub-groups that respond differently to the treatment. Children with a behavioural disorder as well as ADHD seem to deteriorate while awaiting treatment. This is also true of children with more severe symptoms of ADHD or a behavioural disorder, and children from single-parent families.

Conclusion of the study

The conclusion of this study is that behavioural therapy works. It would also seem that certain groups of children should be treated quickly to prevent them from deteriorating. This applies to children from single-parent families, and children with severe behavioural problems or serious symptoms of ADHD. Groenman would like to see this group of children being offered treatment immediately and not being placed on a waiting list. A prompt intervention with behavioural therapy can help to prevent further deterioration.

Publication in JAACAP