For years I have been arguing that social factors contribute to ADHD diagnoses in part, by reasoning from the work of Peter Conrad, who is mentioned in the article. It is great to see that research offers some vindication for this view.
It’s great to see such decent reporting about sociological findings.
Today many sociologists and neuroscientists believe that regardless of A.D.H.D.’s biological basis, the explosion in rates of diagnosis is caused by sociological factors — especially ones related to education and the changing expectations we have for kids. During the same 30 years when A.D.H.D. diagnoses increased, American childhood drastically changed. Even at the grade-school level, kids now have more homework, less recess and a lot less unstructured free time to relax and play. It’s easy to look at that situation and speculate how “A.D.H.D.” might have become a convenient societal catchall for what happens when kids are expected to be miniature adults. High-stakes standardized testing, increased competition for slots in top colleges, a less-and-less accommodating economy for those who don’t get into colleges but can no longer depend on the existence of blue-collar jobs — all of these are expressed through policy changes and cultural expectations, but they may also manifest themselves in more troubling ways — in the rising number of kids whose behavior has become pathologized.
I would take exception to some of the reasoning of the reporter. For instance, she states.…The correlations between the implementation of these laws and the rates of A.D.H.D. diagnosis matched on a regional scale as well. When Hinshaw compared the rollout of these school policies with incidences of A.D.H.D., he found that when a state passed laws punishing or rewarding schools for their standardized-test scores, A.D.H.D. diagnoses in that state would increase not long afterward. Nationwide, the rates of A.D.H.D. diagnosis increased by 22 percent in the first four years after No Child Left Behind was implemented.To be clear: Those are correlations, not causal links. [emphasis added]
To be clear: causation can be inferred from correlation if the rates of ADHD diagnoses follow, in time, the implementation of high stakes testing. In other words, time is sufficient to claim that high stakes testing is a factor contributing to the epidemic of ADHD diagnoses.