Acute Effects of Parent Stimulant Medication Versus Behavioral Parent Training on Mothers’ ADHD, Parenting Behavior, and At-Risk Children

Acute Effects of Parent Stimulant Medication Versus Behavioral Parent Training on Mothers’ ADHD, Parenting Behavior, and At-Risk Children

Chronis-Tuscano A, French W, Strickland J, Sasser T, Gonzalez ENS, Whitlock KB, Stein MA.

J Clin Psychiatry. 2020 Sep 8;81(5):19m13173.

doi: 10.4088/JCP.19m13173.


Commentary* by Dr. Margaret Weiss: Treatment of parents with ADHD using medication, parent training or both impacts unique aspects of parenting function.



Background: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is present in 25%-50% of parents of children with ADHD, compromising parenting and child behavioral treatment. Efforts to treat multiplex ADHD families have not compared behavioral parenting interventions to parent psychopharmacology without confounds of other treatments. This report describes a pilot early intervention study directly comparing parent lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (LDX) to behavioral parent training (BPT) in families in which the mother had currently untreated ADHD and the young child displayed ADHD symptoms.


Methods: Mothers with ADHD (N = 35) of 4- to 8-year-old stimulant-naive children (N = 35) were randomly assigned to an 8-week trial of LDX (starting at 20 mg/d and titrated to a maximum of 70 mg/d) or BPT. Outcomes included multi-method, multi-informant measures of (1) maternal ADHD symptoms (Conners’ Adult ADHD Rating Scales) and impairment (Clinical Global Impressions-Severity of Illness scale [CGI-S] and CGI-Improvement scale [CGI-I]), (2) parenting (Alabama Parenting Questionnaire [APQ] and Dyadic Parent-Child Interaction Coding System, Fourth Edition), and (3) child ADHD symptoms (Conners Parent Rating Scale Revised-Short Form and Conners Early Childhood Scale) and impairment (CGI-S, CGI-I, and Child Impairment Rating Scale).


Results: At 8 weeks, both treatments improved mothers’ self-reported emotion regulation and mothers’ functioning on the CGI, but only LDX improved mothers’ self-reported core ADHD symptoms. LDX was associated with improvement in parents’ perception of their own ADHD symptoms (Conners Inattention [P < .0001] and ADHD Index scores [P < .0001]) and their child’s ADHD symptoms (P = .009). Fifty-six percent of the mothers treated with LDX (n = 10) were “much” or “very much” improved with regard to their adult ADHD based on the CGI-I scores versus 6% of mothers receiving BPT (n = 1; P = .003). BPT improved parenting on self-reported positive parenting (P = .007), inconsistent discipline (P > .0001), and corporal punishment (P = .001), while LDX improved reported inconsistent discipline (P = .001) and corporal punishment (P = .04) on the APQ, consistent with prior research. In contrast to parental LDX, which did not improve observed parenting, BPT was associated with increased positive parenting during child-directed play (P = .0002) and clean-up (P = .04) and less negative parenting (P = .04) during child-directed play. Six percent of children (n = 1) whose mothers were randomized to LDX (n = 18) were “much” or “very much” improved on the CGI-I compared to 35% (n = 16) of those treated with BPT (P = .04).


Conclusions: LDX and BPT each had unique effects on maternal ADHD symptoms and parenting, but modest effects on at-risk children. In general, LDX was more effective at treating mothers’ core ADHD symptoms, but both LDX and BPT improved mothers’ emotion regulation, and BPT resulted in more consistent effects on parenting measures via both maternal report and direct observation. As most children remained significantly impaired after 8 weeks of unimodal treatment, combination treatment and/or longer treatment duration may be necessary to improve functioning of multiplex ADHD families.


* Abstracts are selected for their clinical relevance by Dr. Margaret Weiss, Director of Clinical Research, Child Psychiatry, Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard University. Her commentary reflects her own opinion.  It is not approved or necessarily representative of the CADDRA board.


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