|Vol. 2, No. 4 , 1996, Page 3|
Studying a group of substance-abusing teenage boys exhibiting symptoms of conduct disorder, Laetitia Thompson and colleagues report that boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) had significantly worse behavior problems than those without ADHD.
The researchers studied 171 boys, ranging in age from 13 to 19, in a residential program for substance abusers with behavioral disorders. The researchers compared the severity of conduct disorder and substance abuse in boys with and without ADHD, as well as the age in which the behavior problems first surfaced. The results of the study, Thompson et al. say, suggest that conduct-disordered boys with ADHD are "particularly troubled individuals."
"The boys [with ADHD] showed earlier onset of problem behaviors, and, in middle adolescence, they showed very high levels of these behaviors, other diagnoses [including depression and anxiety], and more substance involvement," the researchers say. "It seems likely that they are at particularly high risk for continued serious antisocial behavior and substance abuse, with a high cost to themselves and to society."
The researchers say their findings are consistent with previous studies showing that adolescents with both conduct disorder and ADHD "may have particularly severe and persisting pathology."
Because the children of teenage mothers are at high risk for delinquency, criminality, and health and social problems, many public health programs are attempting to reduce the rate of teen pregnancy. While these programs often focus on raising self-esteem, one study suggests that identifying and treating learning disabilities among adolescent girls may be a more effective approach.
Psychologist Helen Rauch-Elnekave, working with adolescent mothers, found that low self-esteem was rare among her subjects. Learning disabilities, however, were very common: of 39 girls whose school records were available, a majority scored one or more years below grade level in reading and language skills, and a third lagged more than two grades. Most of the girls, Rauch-Elnekave found, had learning disabilities severe enough to qualify them for special education classes, yet only two had been placed in such classes. She concludes that learning disabilities may be "a significant contributing factor to the high rate of births to school-age girls in the United States."
Rauch-Elnekave also found that the infants of her subjects exhibited language delays and cognitive problems that suggest they too are at risk for developmental delays and academic failure.
"Contribution of ADHD symptoms to substance problems and delinquency in conduct-disordered adolescents," Laetitia Thompson, Paula Riggs, Susan Mikulich, and Thomas Crowley, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, Vol. 24, No. 3, June 1996, pp. 325-347.
"Teenage motherhood: its relationship to undetected learning problems," Helen Rauch-Elnekave, Adolescence, Vol. 29, No. 113, Spring 1994, pp. 91-103.