This study conducted in Italy aimed to evaluate the stress level of parents of children with ADHD during the back-to-school period relative to parents of children without ADHD. The results indicated that childhood ADHD is associated with heightened parental stress when children are returning to school.
This study focused on the Italian sample who participated in the international back-to-school stress survey conducted online in multiple countries* in September 2011. Parents of children/adolescents diagnosed with ADHD (n=107; mean age=40.3 years) and without ADHD (n=105; mean age=42.2 years) were administered a survey questionnaire comprising 28 questions designed to collect information on the demographics of the participants, characteristics of children and their families, and stress generated during standard situations† and back-to-school–specific situations.‡ Parents scored their stress level according to a modified Holmes and Rahe stress scale from 1 (low stress) to 10 (high stress).
Italian parents of children with ADHD (mean age=10.3 years) experienced significantly higher stress (p<0.05) relative to parents of children without ADHD in all standard life domains, except the personal life domain (p=0.06). Also, parental stress levels were significantly higher (p≤0.005) across the six back-to-school–specific domains in the Italian ADHD group compared with the Italian non-ADHD group, with more pronounced differences observed between the two groups for these domains than for the standard domains.
The limitations of this study include the absence of validation for the survey questionnaire as a measure of stress, lack of rigorous statistical analysis, reliance on parents’ report for ADHD/comorbidity diagnosis, uneven distribution of participants among survey countries, and potential bias towards parents with information technology knowledge and greater understanding of ADHD. Despite these limitations, the results shed light on the burden of parental stress during the back-to-school period, emphasising the importance of diagnostic practices that consider parental stress as a compounding factor for the child’s symptoms, and prompt the development of psychosocial programmes to better support children with ADHD and their parents.
*Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK
†Grouped into four domains: personal life, family life, life events and events throughout the year
‡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
Loprieno U, Gagliano A. Stress levels in parents of children with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder during the back-to-school period: results of an international survey in Italy. Minerva Pediatr 2016; 68: 330-340.