Since the heightening of academic standards in recent decades, there has been an increase in diagnosis of ADHD. A possible connection between the prevalence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and increasing academic demands on young children has just been discovered by a recent study spearheaded by Jeffrey P. Brosco, M.D., Ph.D., professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
As quoted in an article
written by the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Brosco states, “When we researched educational and public policy literature for studies that documented time children spent on academic activities, we were alarmed to find how substantially education had changed since the ’70s. From time spent studying to enrollment rates in pre-primary programs, everything had increased, and not surprisingly, in the past 40 years we also saw ADHD diagnoses double.”
During the study, Brosco and co-investigator Anna Bona found that there was a 30 percent increase in time spent teaching 3- to 5-year-olds letters and numbers from 1981 to 1997 and that there was also a large increase in the number of children participating in full-day programs and time spent after hours on homework. This increase in academic activities has inadvertently resulted in less time for play and relaxation, leading to children being seen as outliers and ultimately being diagnosed with ADHD. Even though proving this connection was not main focus on Brosco’s study, it does put a spotlight on the effects of increasing academic standards for young children and the need for additional research.
Brosco stressed that the purpose of his study was not to view full-day programming or education through a critical paradigm, but rather to emphasize that learning practices should be developmentally age appropriate, no matter the age of the child. He encourages free play and more interactive activities, such as reading together or trying their hand in the kitchen, rather than implementing studying tools into young one’s down time. “In the United States we’ve decided that increasing academic demands on young children is a good thing,” Brosco said. “What we haven’t considered are the potential negative effects.”