Social networks, caregiver strain, and utilization of mental health services among elementary school students at high risk for ADHD

Regina Bussing, Bonnie T. Zima, Faye A. Gary, Dana M. Mason, Christina E. Leon, Karabi Sinha, Cynthia Wilson Garvan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Objective: This study explores whether parental support networks vary by sociodemographic factors among children at high risk for attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and whether network characteristics influence the receipt of mental health treatment for the child. Method: A school district-wide, two-phase screening study design was used to identify 266 children at high risk for ADHD. Parents completed standardized instruments assessing network structure and function, DSM-IV diagnoses of disruptive disorders, caregiver strain, and treatment receipt, and children self-reported internalizing symptoms. Relationships were examined with analysis of variance and multivariate prediction, adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, psychopathology, and parental strain. Results: Network characteristics varied by race and socioeconomic status (SES), but not by child gender. African-American and disadvantaged parents reported smaller network sizes, but more frequent contact and higher levels of support than their white and high-SES counterparts. High levels of instrumental support lowered the odds of ADHD treatment during the 12 months before (OR = .7, p < .001) and after (OR = .7, p < .001) the network assessment interview. In contrast, parental strain increased the likelihood of ADHD treatment during both periods. Conclusions: Clinicians should anticipate high levels of caregiver strain and low levels of instrumental support among their patients' parents and address the potential high need for respite care in treatment plans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)842-850
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Caregiver strain
  • Mental health services
  • Social networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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