Stressors and strengths in families of adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Corwin, Melinda D.
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The present study explored issues related to adolescents with ADHD and the families in which they belong from a developmental contextual and lifespan perspective. Both deficits- and strengths-based approaches were used to investigate parental perceptions of family stressors and available family resources; and individual family members' (adolescents with ADHD, mothers, fathers, and sibling adolescents) perceptions of positive and negative family characteristics and feelings relative to ADHD. Additionally, the target adolescents’ perspectives on the meaning of ADHD in their lives and personal and family resources and strengths were examined. Forty adolescents diagnosed with some form of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and their household family members (mother, father, and/or adolescent sibling) participated. Hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) was used to analyze family-level data. Results revealed that the number of family members with ADHD did not significantly affect all family members' reports of general family stressors, strains, and distress; however, it did significantly affect reports from mothers in terms of perceived family resources and opinions specific to ADHD: Mothers (but not fathers) reported significantly more resources when only the target adolescent had ADHD and fewer resources when additional family members had the disorder. Also, mothers reported more non-supportive factors, such as teachers and relatives not understanding ADHD, when more than one member of the family had ADHD. Additionally, fathers reported more supportive factors, such as adolescents being creative, when only one member of the family had ADHD. The adolescents with ADHD perceived their own strengths as getting along well with others, having high energy levels, and/or being involved with music. By using a mixed research design, the present study integrated quantitative and qualitative information to provide a better understanding of the hassles that adolescents with ADHD encounter, as well as the resources and strengths they use to meet their environmental challenges at this particular point along their developmental paths.