Objective The past two decades have witnessed a growing interest in the importance of assessing multiple domains of children’s environments as indicators of risk for a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The most salient indicator of family adversity associated with a diagnosis of ADHD is family dysfunction (Cunningham and Boyle, 2002). This study examined the level of family dysfunction in 32 families with children who screened positive for ADHD, ranging in age from 6 to 11 years and a comparison group of 23 families without a child with ADHD with similar sociodemographic characteristics.
Method A descriptive study design was used to assess ADHD and family dysfunction.
Results Family dysfunction was calculated using the general functioning subscale of the McMaster family assessment device (Byles et al, 1988). Unhealthy families represented 30.4% (n = 7) of the comparison group and 43.8% (n = 14) of the ADHD group. t-Test results indicated family functioning to be significantly different between the comparison families (M 1.96, SD 0.23), t (53) 3.43, p = 0.001 and the ADHD families (M 2.23, SD 0.35). Families with children who screened positive for ADHD had higher levels of family dysfunction.
Conclusion Children identified with behavioural characteristics that put them at risk of a diagnosis of ADHD should be targeted for early assessment and preventive intervention in an attempt to prevent further family decline. Earlier identification and intervention with these families may result in healthier family functioning and better child outcomes.