A new study finds being born in August makes a child more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder, and offers a compelling reason why.
My daughter was born on August 6th, and our school district’s cut-off date is September 1. Which means my husband and I spent a lot of time worrying about things like whether she’d struggle more in school due to her young age, or if she’d be as socially mature as the other kids in her grade who were born earlier in the year.
One thing we didn’t worry about was a diagnosis of ADHD—but maybe we should have. A new study by researchers in Taiwan, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, revealed that kids with August birthdays are more likely to be given an ADHD diagnosis.
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Researchers studied data from more than 370,000 children between the ages of 4 and 17. About 2.8 percent of preschool and elementary school boys born in September were diagnosed with ADHD, compared with 4.5 percent of boys born in August. For girls the numbers were not quite as dramatic, rising from 0.7 percent to 1.2 percent.
As for why this is happening, researchers explain that an ADHD diagnosis is subjective. So when a child is immature compared to other children in the same grade, they are more likely to be inattentive, impulsive, and hyperactive, which in turn may lead a teacher to refer them to a doctor for evaluation.
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Adolescents, however, were less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD if they were younger than their peers. This, study author author Mu-Hong Chen wrote, “may imply that increasing age and maturity lessens the impact of birth month on ADHD diagnoses.”
The study underscores the importance of considering the age of a child within a grade before diagnosing ADHD and prescribing medications like Adderall and Ritalin. Hopefully, this will help prevent future ADHD misdiagnoses down the road.
Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.