ADHD News & Research

Study: Maternal ADHD Symptoms and Emotional Dysregulation Linked to Parenting Difficulties

A new study on the combined impact of maternal ADHD and emotional dysregulation finds that, unsurprisingly, these comorbid conditions negatively affect a woman’s parenting behavior.

New research published in The Journal of Attention Disorders has found that mothers with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) and emotional dysregulation struggle more than others do with parenting challenges including child temper tantrums, meltdowns, and discipline.1

Seventy-nine demographically diverse families of children aged 5 to 10 participated in the multi-method assessment, which studied the independent and interactive effects of maternal ADHD symptoms and emotion dysregulation on parenting behavior. This assessment was informed by the developmental-transactional model of ADHD and family functioning, which holds that parent and child characteristics influence each other, as well as the parent-child relationship.

Findings suggested that different domains of parenting behavior were uniquely associated with maternal ADHD symptoms and maternal emotion dysregulation. Maternal ADHD symptoms contributed to difficulties with adaptive responses to child negative emotion, while maternal emotion dysregulation contributed to difficulties related to disciplining children.

The maladaptive reactions to child discipline reported by mothers with ADHD symptoms might actually result from deficient emotional regulation capabilities rather than from core ADHD symptoms. This is a significant finding for parent-training programs, which could improve parent adherence to evidence-based discipline strategies by addressing parental emotional dysregulation.

The result of this research is notable, in part, because studies show that a child’s development of emotional competence is influenced by parental responses to his or her emotions. Given the small sample size, more research is necessary to define and clarify the conditions under which maternal ADHD symptoms are related to positive vs. negative parenting behavior.


Woods, Kelsey E., et al. “The Unique Effects of Maternal ADHD Symptoms and Emotion Dysregulation on Parenting Behavior.” Journal of Attention Disorders, (February 2019). 10.1177/1087054719820.