ADHD And Maturity Levels In Children: Exploring The Effects Of The Disorder

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Though children as a group tend to mature at varying rates, scientific studies have specifically examined the link between ADHD and maturity levels in kids who have the condition. These studies have focused on the brain structure of children with ADHD in comparison with the brain structure of neurotypical children. Findings have shown that ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, can cause children to lag behind developmentally in terms of maturity.

ADHD and the Brain provides detailed information on how ADHD affects certain neurotransmitters in the brain, causing aggressive, impulsive, and hyperactive behaviors commonly observed in less mature children. The ADHD brain:

--has an imbalance of the neurotransmitters known as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrin, all of which are linked to focus and attention. Children with ADHD attempt to compensate for these chemical deficiencies by engaging in stimulating behaviors that increase neurotransmitter levels.

--may have a basic structure that facilitates certain behaviors and delays maturity. The brain of a child with ADHD may have fewer nerve cell connections and decreased blood flow to the areas that regulate impulse control. (1)

Studies on ADHD and Maturity Levels

The National Institute of Mental Health completed a study in which the brains of ADHD children and the brains of typical children were scanned at designated time intervals during childhood. The results of this study have shown that in kids with ADHD, brain development is slowed in the regions that :

--control short-term memory and moment-to-moment decision making.

--control inappropriate thoughts, movements, and actions.

--control attentiveness and the motivation to work for rewards.

The brain scans of ADHD children also indicated that the motor cortex generally matures at a faster than normal rate, resulting in excessive restlessness and hyperactivity. Those with ADHD may fall behind as much as three years in terms of traditional brain maturity and development. (2)

Effects of Delayed Maturity on ADHD Children

ADDitude magazine explores the effects of social immaturity on kids with ADHD in regard to peer relationships and education. Children with lower maturity levels may experience difficulties in:

--understanding verbal and physical cues from others (interpreting comments correctly, comprehending jokes, etc.).

--regulating behavior (drawing attention to themselves through inappropriate actions such as yelling, disobeying school rules, or being aggressive toward other children).

--making friends within their own age group due to having interests and interactions that are more on par with those of children a few years younger in age.

--communicating with teachers who become frustrated by ADHD-related impulses and behaviors within the classroom. (3)

Studies on ADHD and maturity levels in children have provided helpful information in terms of managing and treating those with the condition. Though children with ADHD have the tendency to be less mature than their peers, they can take medications and learn techniques on coping with impulsiveness and a short attention span. A number of children with delayed maturity do “catch up” developmentally with peers during the teen years and adulthood.