Too many young students are being labelled as hyperactive and given medication when they are simply younger than others in their year, a study warns.

Researchers examined the relationship between a child’s age relative to classmates and their chances of being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

After reviewing 17 studies, covering more than 14million children, researchers found it was more common for the youngest in a classroom to be diagnosed with ADHD, shares Daily Mail.

Symptoms of the condition include being disruptive, fidgety, interrupting others and showing signs of emotional upset. But these are often just the result of the pupils being among the youngest in their year, the researchers claim.

They say that as a result children are being given ‘potentially harmful’ medication they do not need.

Instead of treating the children with drugs, they should be given extra time to mature.

Co-author Dr Joanna Moncrieff, of University College London, which carried out the study with other institutions, told the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry: ‘The diagnosis of ADHD is sometimes applied to behaviour that is disruptive in the classroom because the child is young for their year. Children who are developing within the normal range may end up labelled and medicated because of the pressures and inflexibility of our school system.’

Lead author Dr Martin Whitely, research fellow at Curtin University, Western Australia, said there are no biological markers or physical tests for ADHD and the diagnosis is based in large part on teacher reports of a child’s behaviour.

He added: ‘It appears that across the globe some teachers are mistaking the immaturity of the youngest children in their class for ADHD. Although teachers don’t diagnose it, they are often the first to suggest a child may have ADHD.

‘Our research shows that the ADHD late-birthday effect occurs in both high prescribing countries, like the US, Canada and Iceland, and in countries where ADHD is far less common, like Finland and Sweden.’

Professor Jon Jureidini, a child psychiatrist at the University of Adelaide, said the findings showed the importance of teachers, doctors and parents giving the youngest children extra time to mature.

He said: ‘Mistaking perfectly normal age-related immaturity for ADHD is just one of many problems with the label. Children who are sleep-deprived, bullied, have suffered abuse or have a host of other problems, often get labelled ADHD.

‘Not only does this result in them getting potentially harmful drugs they don’t need, but their real problems don’t get identified and addressed.’

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  • I work with special needs children and not all of the children with ADHD, Autisim, etc are medicated. Those that are really need the medication as they just cant cope with life without it.


  • Personally, I think these young girls rush into having babies for whatever reasons and realise it’s not as easy as they thought it might be. When they realise they’re not coping, it’s the child’s fault and they rush them to the paediatrician to be medicated fir ADD or ADHD or sleeping potions


  • I was told that my son had a mild case of ADHD but no drugs needed. I’m glad of that because after quite a few years it turns out he has a mild case of autism (again no drugs needed). He is a wonderful young man.


  • Medication cannot be given out lightly. Of course some really need it but I’m sure many do not.


  • ADHD is the one diagnosis that concerns and bothers me. We were pleased to learn how son had ASD and nor the normal ADHD with it. I’ve seen kids drugged for ADHD when their difficult behaviour, I believe, could be more attributed to their tragic home life, inability to function at school, and attention seeking. I think this diagnosis needs a bigger picture approach before drugs.


  • It’s so hard sometimes to know when there’s a real problem with kids, versus normal variation.


  • It would also suggest that a revision of the definition in the DSM should be addressed if this is happening!


  • Agree, lots of kids are diagnosed early and given medication that they don’t need – they are just young or being kids.


  • I feel like this is so true. Back when I was a child a family of FOUR boys all were told they had ADHD as they were so hyperactive and disruptive in class. Young children have a tendency to be distracted the most and express their emotions physically rather than verbally. I also think many kids who need to learn using a different method of teaching (a more free learning classroom, movement etc) than what schools currently offer get lumped in as ADHD too.


  • Very recognizable, age maturity has always to be taken in account


  • Children who are misdiagnosed have other medical conditions
    Some actually have Autism or Aspergers. Children with these problems usually have problems communicating, get very frustrated because others do not understand them either. If they are unable to communicate sufficiently, if they get sick it’s very hard to work out what is happening. I know of one child who had constant ear infections. I don’t know if it was a medical professional or the parents idea. Dairy foods were removed from his diet and he had very few ear infections after that. In USA they start some types of therapy when they are 2 y,o. A friend of mine was a nanny over there for a year and rook one of the children to therapy – including speech therapy. Now in his early teens he makes abbreviated sentences.


  • In some cases as stated this is true but not for all. Parents and child care workers can normally start to tell if it is more than immaturity and recommend a check with a gp or paediatrician.


  • So true most mums these days label to quickly when there child is less than 1 years children are still learning and get excited it’s what kids do but to seek medication is unfair on the child but it’s up to the parents no one can’t be forced


  • I agree, too many parents are reaching for a diagnosis for their child when most of the time, it’s kids being kids. I know of 2 young, single mums who have gone to paediatricians and asked for medication to put their child to sleep. It’s so sad that young mums aren’t taught ways to cope, it’s too easy to reach for a prescription nowadays


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