“Pediatricians and family practitioners know to routinely screen for the presence of these psychosocial risk factors because of the potential negative effects on the child,” Bauer said. “Families who experience intimate partner violence will need help, not only to make sure the victims stay safe from physical harm, but there [are] also psychological effects.”
The study, which appeared online Feb. 4 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, included more than 2,400 children who were 3 years old. Parents who brought them to four different pediatric community clinics filled out questionnaires regarding their personal history of depression and domestic violence while in the pediatricians’ waiting room.
Fifty-eight caregivers reported a history of intimate partner violence and depression before their child turned 3. In addition, 69 reported a history of intimate partner violence and 704 had symptoms of depression during this time frame. Close to 66 percent of the parents reported neither depression nor intimate partner violence. Children who were exposed to intimate partner violence and/or parental depression were four times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD by the age of 6.
What’s more, 2.9 percent of kids whose parents reported depression received prescription drugs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, compared with 1.6 percent of children whose parents did not report a history of depression. Medications included those that treat anxiety, depression and sleep problems.
While the study showed an association, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link between intimate partner violence and/or maternal depression and likelihood of an ADHD diagnosis.
Experts said the findings make sense, but more study is needed.