ADHD and Your Child's Birthday

Is ADHD linked to when a child is born?


A new study released earlier this year by the Canadian Medical Association Journal found a link between the likelihood of the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with the time of year a child is born. The study, conducted in British Columbia, looked at over 900,000 children between the ages of six and twelve, grouped by grade level, and spanned over eleven years. It sought to determine whether the time of year a child was born had any affect on being diagnosed with ADHD and whether they were prescribed medication to treat the disorder.

The findings showed that children born in December were almost 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed and just under 50 per cent more likely to be prescribed medication for ADHD than those children born earlier in the year. It is important to note that the cut-off for entry into kindergarten is December 31 in British Columbia, whereas other provinces have different cut-off dates, many areas in Alberta, for example, have a cut-off of February 28 (or 29 if it’s a leap year). This means children in the same grade can be almost 15 months apart.

Similar studies have come to the same conclusion: children born in the later months of a grade level are much more like to be diagnosed and prescribed medication to treat ADHD. Therefore, it is not the time of year, or particular season that a child is born in that is a factor, it is being the youngest in their grade. The results indicate that ADHD may be diagnosed too often, and in many cases where the disorder may not in fact exist.

When young children are be compared by there age level, a year can make a great deal of difference. Children grow and develop very quickly, especially in the early years, so children born in January have almost a whole year advantage. What may be seen as ADHD could simply be a lack of maturity in that child. Comparing children almost a whole year apart is unfair to the youngest in the group.

This is not the first study to point out the flaws in comparing children across the span of a year. Studies on professional athletes have found that a vast majority of athletes are born in the first few months of the year. Many believe this is because they have a have had more time to grow, develop skills and coordination in comparison to their younger counterparts. The study is raising questions about the seemingly lax practice of diagnosing and prescribing medication for ADD and ADHD. There is currently no blood test for ADHD and diagnosing is at the discretion of medical professionals, who rely heavily on input from teachers and parents.


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