What "Dr. Mom" ordered: A community-based exploratory study of parental self-care responses to children's ADHD symptoms

Regina Bussing, Mirka E Koro-Ljungberg, Pamela Williamson, Faye A. Gary, Cynthia Wilson Garvan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Little is known about family initiated self-care interventions in response to symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and how self-care may co-exist with professional treatments. This paper explores parental self-care strategies for children with hyperactivity or attention problems, and examines factors and domains that influence their use from the mixed method perspective. As part of a longitudinal cohort study of ADHD detection and service use, caregivers of a representative US community sample of 266 children at high risk for ADHD completed a questionnaire that assessed five self-care strategies (behavior modification, coping, diet, over-the-counter medication use and religious practices), and made open-ended inquiry about discipline changes in response to behavioral concerns. Questionnaire responses were analyzed using logistic regression approaches. Open-ended answers were open coded; secondary analysis followed Spradley's model of domain analysis. Quantitative findings showed that behavior modification was the most commonly tried self-care strategy, followed by coping, diet, and religious practices. Over-the-counter trial was least common. The parents of professionally treated children were more likely to have employed behavior modification, coping strategies and over-the-counter medications than the parents of untreated children. Two-thirds of parents had changed their disciplinary action within three domains that were identified through qualitative analysis, including changes related to (a) the prevention of disciplinary problems (e.g., sustain eye contact, activation, consistency, clear instructions), (b) the solution of disciplinary problems (e.g., time-outs; privilege removal), and (c) parental coping associated with disciplinary problems (e.g., control own emotions, become less judgmental and more tolerant, and develop more appropriate expectations). These findings suggest that self-care strategies are commonly employed and appear to co-exist with professional treatment. Therefore, healthcare providers should actively explore parents' use of such strategies as some of them may interfere with prescribed treatments (e.g., over-the-counter) or absorb parental resources without likely benefit (e.g., diet).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)871-882
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • ADHD
  • Coping
  • Health inequalities
  • Self-care
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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