ADHD News & Research

A Mom’s Ability to Work Affected by Her Child’s ADHD

An ADHD diagnosis affects a mother’s workforce participation, making it critical that ADHD treatment addresses this long-term economic effect.

November 22, 2016

Mothers whose children have been diagnosed with ADHD may be significantly more likely to be out of the workforce by the time their child hits the tween years, according to a longitudinal Australian study, which highlights the challenges of balancing a career with ADHD-related caregiving.

The study, published November 19 in the Journal of Attention Disorders, used data from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) to identify 10- and 11-year-olds who had been diagnosed with ADHD, according to parent reports. The 194 children with ADHD who were identified in the sixth wave of the LSAC were measured proportionately, meaning they were assumed to represent the more than 11,000 children with ADHD who were born in Australia between March 2003 and February 2004. The participants’ parents were questioned about their employment status, and designated as either “employed,” “unemployed” (but seeking work), or “not in the labor force.”

The mothers of the children with ADHD had a 38 percent chance of being out of the labor force altogether, compared to only 20 percent of mothers whose children did not have ADHD. Single mothers were more strongly affected, the researchers say. After adjusting for education level, race, economic status, and other potentially confounding factors, single mothers whose children had ADHD were five times more likely to be out of the labor force than their counterparts who were unaffected by ADHD. Dads didn’t face the same effects, however; fathers whose children had ADHD had just a 10 percent chance of not being in the labor force, compared to 5 percent for fathers of children without ADHD.

The results make it clear that the economic and social side effects of an ADHD diagnosis should be factored in to a well-rounded treatment plan, the researchers say — particularly for single mothers who may have to rely on welfare or savings to make ends meet.

“From a policy perspective, the results of this study suggest that flexible job schedules with child care/after-school care programs would be of benefit for parents of older children with ADD/ADHD to help balance caregiving and paid employment,” they write.

“Furthermore, these findings may also inform when to target therapy and social interventions for ADD/ADHD, with families with children aged 8 to 11 perhaps requiring extra social support to allow mothers to stay in the workplace.”