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2 Apr 2015

Hernández-Otero I et al. Int J Psychiatry Clin Pract 2015; 19: 8-17.

The return to school following summer holidays is considered one of the most stressful events of the year by parents of children/adolescents with ADHD, reports the recent ‘back-to-school stress survey’ conducted across six European countries (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK) and Canada.

Please note that this research study was funded by Shire.

This survey compared parental stress during the transition from summer holidays to school, between parents of children/adolescents aged 6–17 years with and without ADHD in Europe (n=613 and n=693, respectively) and Canada (n=102 and n=150, respectively).

A lower percentage of children/adolescents received specialist support at school in Europe (42.8%) than in Canada (50.0%). The use of medication for ADHD was lower in Europe (49.7%) than in Canada (58.8%), however, the rates of patients taking a medication break during the school holidays was common practice in both Europe (41.8%) and Canada (46.7%) and of those patients who took a break from medication, most restarted treatment 0–2 weeks before going back to school.

Compared with parents of children without ADHD, key results indicated that European parents of children with ADHD showed significantly higher levels of stress on all six school-specific stress domains measured (all p<0.001): preparing for back-to-school, day-to-day school stresses, stresses regarding negative experiences for the child, parental stresses, interactions with school and teachers, and general stress of going back to school; whilst Canadian parents of children with ADHD showed significantly higher levels of stress on four domains: preparing for back-to-school (p<0.001), day-to-day school activities (p<0.001), interactions with school and teachers(p≤0.006) and general stress of going back to school (p≤0.006).

Further analysis of stress levels at different times of year revealed that in Europe, stress was significantly higher for parents of children with ADHD compared with parents of children without ADHD during Christmas, Easter, the summer holidays, return to school, parent/child birthdays and work annual performance reviews (all p<0.001). For Canada, statistical significance was reached for return to school (p<0.001) and summer holidays (p=0.003).

Although data were parent-reported and information on the diagnosis of ADHD and comorbidities were not confirmed by a physician, researchers concluded that ADHD has a significant impact on parental stress levels during the back-to-school period. This conclusion can have important implications as parental stress can affect presentation of ADHD symptoms. These findings may be useful in the development of strategies for the management of parental ADHD-related stress.

Read more about the European and Canadian findings of the back-to-school stress survey here

Hernández-Otero I, Doddamani L, Dutray B, et al. Stress levels experienced by parents of children with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder during the back-to-school period: results of a European and Canadian survey. Int J Psychiatry Clin Pract 2015; 19: 8-17.

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