‘Machiavellian’ Parents More Willing To Give Kids Unnecessary ADHD Medication
Parents who are more focused on things like money and success may be more likely to give their children ADHD medication that they don’t need, a new study has suggested.
German sociologists have found parents with ‘Machiavellian’ personality traits – typically associated with competitiveness and manipulativeness – were more willing to give their kids unnecessary medication in order to boost their focus and help them perform better academically.
In a paper published earlier this month in Social Science Research, the sociologists explored possible explanations behind the rise in ADHD medications being prescribed to children, suggesting that parents may be behind growing misuse of the medication.
Known as ‘cognitive enhancement,’ the use of medications intended for medical conditions like ADHD, fatigue and narcolepsy to improve concentration and performance has been well-documented among adolescents and young adults, however this new study suggests some parents’ desire for their children to gain an advantage may also be a factor, The Academic Times reports.
In a survey, parents were asked whether they would be willing to give their child medication to help their performance in a spelling bee. Of those asked, 6.8% said they had previously given their child medication with the goal of cognitive enhancement, while 41.8% said that there was a non-zero chance that they would consider doing so. The study found parents who scored higher in Machiavellianism were more likely to consider giving their children medication, and were also more likely to be motivated by financial incentives.
Around 15% of those asked said that they themselves had taken medication to enhance their own cognitive performance.
Sebastian Stattler and Phillip Linden, who co-authored the study, concluded that:
A minority of parents seem to increasingly engage in intense parenting, accompanied by a competitive mindset and driven by the desire to optimise their children’s future chances and to exceed the norm of their developmental achievements
The authors cautioned that their study was too small to be considered fully representative and say that more work is needed in this area, but they believe that public health authorities need to take the issue of cognitive enhancement more seriously, especially when it comes to prescribing medication to children.
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