248233 Association Between Youth Violence Exposure and ADHD Symptoms

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 11:35 AM

Terri Lewis, PhD , Department of Health Behavior, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
David Schwebel, PhD , Department of Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
Marc N. Elliott, PhD , RAND, Santa Monica, CA
Susanna Visser, MS , Division of Human Development and Disability, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Atlanta, GA
Sara Toomey, MD, MPhil, MPH, MSc , Division of General Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
Katie A. McLaughlin, PhD , Department of Health Care Policy; School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, MA
Paula Cuccaro, PhD , Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research, University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston, Houston, TX
Susan Tortolero, PhD , Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research, University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston, Houston, TX
Stephen W. Banspach, PhD , Associate Director for Science, Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Mark A. Schuster, MD, PhD , Dept. of Medicine, Children's Hospital Boston/Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Boston, MA
Youth exposure to violence is a significant public health problem, with exposure estimates ranging from 9% to as high as 60%. Research suggests that ADHD, a disorder marked by symptoms of impulsivity, hyperactivity, and/or inattention, is more common among trauma-exposed children, but has not been examined as a function of violence exposure. The current study was designed to assess the association between violence exposure and symptoms of ADHD. Data from 4,621 5th graders and their primary caregivers in the Healthy Passages study, a multi-site study of adolescent health, were used. Youth indicated whether they had witnessed and/or been victims of any of 4 violent events (threatened; beaten up; threatened/injured with a gun; threatened/injured with a knife). Caregivers endorsed whether the youth exhibited 8 items assessing inattention and hyperactivity. Findings indicated a greater number of ADHD symptoms along a gradient of violence exposure, such that the highest number of symptoms were endorsed for the group who reported both witnessing and victimization (M = 2.6, SD =2.5), followed by the witnessing-violence-only group (M = 2.1, SD =2.1), and the no-violence-exposure-group (M = 1.9, SD =2.0). After controlling for child gender, race/ethnicity, income, and child self-reported problem behaviors in multivariate regression, those children who both witnessed and were victims of violence exhibited more ADHD symptoms relative to those with no violence exposure or witnessing only. This study documents an association between violence exposure and the expression of ADHD symptoms among children. Implications, limitations, and alternative explanations will be discussed.

Learning Areas:
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe how trauma exposure may play a role in the development of ADHD. Compare the relationship between violence exposure and ADHD symptoms as a function of gender.

Keywords: Youth Violence, Child and Adolescent Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I completed the topic review and conducted all analyses for the content of this abstract, as well as having a publication record in the area of youth witnessed violence.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

See more of: Epidemiology of violence
See more of: Epidemiology