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Parents, ADHD and the internet

  • Sylvia TerbeckEmail author
  • L. Paul Chesterman
Original Article

Abstract

The objective of this study is to examine the potential impact of using the internet on medical consultations by analysing the attitudes, attributions, and emotional responses of parents who have been informed by specialists that their child does not have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and to examine the nature of the feedback they obtained from members of online internet support groups. Over 40,000 messages from the five most popular international internet forums discussing children with ADHD were analysed. Messages from parents who reported that they had seen at least one specialist (e.g. paediatrician, psychiatrist or psychologist) because of their concerns that their child had ADHD were identified. The children included boys and girls with an age range from 2 to 16 years. Of these, we analysed messages where the parents additionally reported that the specialist had excluded a diagnosis of ADHD. Using these criteria, 91 messages from parents who had consulted over 200 different specialists and 398 replies to these messages were identified for content analysis. The replies to concerned parents were analysed to determine whether they were offered impartial advice. A majority of the parents reported that they did not believe the specialist and were unhappy about their child not being diagnosed with ADHD. They expressed dissatisfaction with the professional’s opinions and the implication that their child’s conduct was caused by their poor parenting skills. Importantly, 87.6 % of the responses that these parents received, from other members of online forums, reinforced the parent’s negative attitude towards the professional’s judgement. It was generally suggested that the parents should not believe the expert and should seek a further opinion. The use of the internet may encourage “doctor shopping” and mistrust in health services. Medical professionals and others may need to be aware of this, and parents may need more support than is generally offered to be able to accept alternative explanations for their child’s behaviour.

Keywords

Online support groups ADHD Parents Online advice quality 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Cambian LodgeSutton in AshfieldUK
  3. 3.School of PsychologyUniversity of WalesBangorUK

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