EFFECTS OF SOCIAL STIGMA ON ADHD 8
Effectsof Social stigma on ADHD: The contributing impact ADHD has withchildhood obesity
Attentiondeficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) hasbeen linked to eating disorders in both adults and children. Inparticular, children with ADHD have an increased risk of foodaddiction raising the odds of becoming obese. According to Nigg(2013),ADHD causes heightened distractibility in children, leads to reducedorganizational and planning abilities thereby culminating intochaotic eating patterns. While obesity in ADHD is mostly caused byunhealthy eating habits, it can be caused by difficulties withsleeping and failure to engage in physical activities. Childrenwith ADHD are impulsive and have difficulty with judgment. Researchshows there are neurological problems in these children. "ADHDchildren typically have damage to orbitofrontal cortex (regions inbrain responsible for executive functioning abilities such asplanning and working memory) and an inactive amygdala (area in brainresponsible for the emotions of fear, sadness and aggression), whichtogether show impulsivity, attention difficulties, aggression, andlack of decision making abilities" (Bubier & Drabick, 2008).These dysfunctioning regions create blocks in the brain which isproblematic when needing to recall information from a previoussituation. When unable to make the appropriate connections, thesechildren become mentally frustrated, and behavior problems may occurduring these times. Moreover, when making food choices, the linkbetween children with ADHD and obesity can be a real problem becauseof how the children function cognitively. These children may not beconscious of the surrounding concerns about what they eat because ofmany factors including their impulsive nature, poor mentalprocessing, socioeconomic status and inadequate parental oversight.
Whetherin adults or children, people with ADHD are exposed to social stigma.This stigma arises from the misconceptions and mistaken assumptionsthat people have about the condition. According toBubier & Drabick (2008),long-held ideas and assumptions about ADHD fuel the social stigma onthe condition. However, this stigma when directed to vulnerablegroups of people such as children only worsens the situation. Thepurpose of this study is to investigate the effects of social stigmaon ADHD. The study will attempt to uncover the contributingimpact ADHD has with childhood obesity.
Participantsin this study include children between 5 to 12 years old. A total of32 children were selected from both private, public schools in theLos Ageless. Notably, the sample was obtained from the elementaryschools and more specifically from day scholars. Children in theboarding section were excluded from the research so as to avoidheterogeneity since they do not fit within the design of the study.Before inclusion, all eligible children were assessed by apediatrician and psychiatrists for ADHD. Besides meeting the DSM-IVcriteria, participants needed to be Los Angeles residents, are 5 to12 years old, attend primary school in Los Angeles and live at home.Exclusion criteria were autism, genetic syndromes such as Turner,Down, and Fragile-X, neurological conditions such as epilepsy, braindisorders as well as IQ<80.Further exclusion criteria for this study were the recent use ofmedication which is known to affect sleep such as pipamperone,clonidine, melatonin, and pimozide. The lead to the final exclusionof 8 kids out of original 40 participants resulted in a sample sizeof 32 children. A majority of the excluded children had recently usedthe types of medications mentioned above. Notably, none of theselected participants was using medication at the beginning of thestudy or had used the medication mentioned above in the recent past.A written informed consent document was obtained from the parents andguardians of the participating kids. After submitting the letter ofconsent, parents of the participants were required to complete aquestionnaire related to their kids and their families. Accordingly,parents were paid a small fee to cater for their transportation costswhile children received a couple of snacks. A small donation ofreading materials was made for each school that participated in thestudy. In addition, the research was approved by the UniversityInstitutional Review Board andresearchers granted relevant documentation as a proof of approval.
Eachsurvey was handed out to participants at the beginning of their classsession. After the participants had completed the surveys, theresearcher collected the questionnaires.
Totest whether there is a difference in parents and their children intheir perception of ADHD, this researcher performed an independentsample t-test between participants on the ASQ. The results of theanalysis indicated that the differences between the two groups wereinsignificant Scores for children (M=56.93 SD=11.4). On the otherhand, scores for parents were (M=61.59 SD=10.4). Conditions p=.052,t(85)=-1.97.
Thestigma on people with ADHD is prevalent in the society. Despiteremarkable increase in ineffective treatment and a greater level ofacceptance of medical realities underlying genetic and biologicalcauses of ADHD, research shows that people avoid and fear individualswith ADHD. Consequently, the negative attitudes, discrimination, andexperiences of rejection have continued to affect the life of personswith ADHD and their families. Notably, where individuals with ADHDare children, their condition becomes worse with time since they havelittle or no understand about the condition they are suffering from.As mentioned in the introduction section of this paper, ADHD is a bigcontributor to obesity in children since those who are stigmatizedtend to seek solace with food and end up becoming overweight.According to Waite and Ramsay (2011), individuals with ADHD conditionreported intense and continuous intense experiences of discriminationand stigma. In essence, stigma lies in the ideas and belief of acommunity. It is a social problem that can affect the victims to amuch extent that it only worsens their mental disorders.
Stigmatizationtowards children with ADHD is a critical issue since it can lead toisolation, discrimination or rejection (Stein, 2014). The purpose ofconducting this survey within an education set up is that it isimperative for kids to achieve occupational skills and educationalskills in this environment. Furthermore, children start creatingtheir social network and developing their social skills mostly inschools. Notably, these developments cannot take place effectivelywithin an environment where children are subject to social stigma. Acomparison of the participant’s questionnaire results shows thatboth parents and comparison participants demonstrated negative stigmascores on the dimension of stigmatization. The scores showed that thedegree of stigmatization towards children with ADHD is high tomoderate in both parents and comparison participants. As such, acomparison of stigma responses across various dimensions would reveala similar pattern of beliefs and attitudes that can be associatedwith the two groups. This finding is consistent with the previousstudy on stigmatization of children with mental disorders conditions.
Accordingto Waite and Ramsay (2011), the disclosure of the diagnostic statusto a third party can adversely affect judgments other third partiestowards children with ADHD condition. In other words, if anacquaintancegets to know that a particular child is suffering from ADHD, they aremostly likely to harbor certain biases towards the child. Incontrast, the lowest sigma scores were obtained from the children.Essentially, children did not demonstrate stigmatizing attitudestowards individuals with ADHD. From the study, it is evident thatstigmatizing attitude towards people with ADHD concentrates more onbehavioral characteristics of the mental condition.
Stigmaresponses between parents and children revealed a significantly lowerstigmatization of children about social dimension. As such, thedifference between parents and children participants was of smallsize. Nonetheless, parents expressed less pronounced reservationsabout the social skills children with ADHD. Accordingly, behavioralcharacteristics of children with ADHD such as being reliable,empathic or trustworthy were positively evaluated by the parentscompared to children participants.
Theresults from this study nevertheless show a low the level ofstigmatization towards children with ADHD. However, the studyemphasizes the behavioral attitude of parents and teachers towardschildren with ADHD. Another critical observation from this study isthe effect of stigma on children with ADHD(Overton & Medina, 2012). The majority of parents who participated in the study agreed thatchildren exposed to stigma as a result of ADHD were likely to gainmore weight compared. Essentially, stigma alienates children fromtheir families and communities. Children exposed to the stigma of anyform tend to withdraw from the rest and engage in activities that maybe injurious to their health.
Theresults from this survey support the relevance of knowledge as one ofthe key mediating factors of stigmatization. In another word,stigmatization is a result of lack of knowledge. One way in which thestigma associated with ADHD can be addressed is by conductingtraining programs and special education that aim to increase theknowledge about such disorders(Kellison et al., 2010).Social stigma on children with ADHD affects their behaviors and moodhence leading to activities such that compulsive eating that makesthem overweight. By addressing the social stigma associated withADHD, we could probably reduce the child’s obesity cases in thesociety. As mentioned earlier, social stigma on children with mentaldisorder alienates them further from their care givers, closeassociates thereby exposing them to unhealthy behaviors. Whileeducation and proper training on the causes of mental disorders canhelp reduce the stigma associated with ADHD, a more conscious andconstructive effort to improve the epidemic of obese ADHD can addressthe problem. This would entail addressing the causes of ADHD in orderto prevent the disorder from escalating and facilitating thedevelopment of other ailments such as obesity. Notable observationfrom this study is that biases and stigma about individuals with ADHDis domiciled within the adult mindset. As such, children only get tolearn of such biases and stigma from the adults. If children can betaught about mental disorders early enough before their minds arecorrupted with half-truths and misconceptions about ADHD, it meansthat the level of stigma would reduce significantly in future.
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