To investigate child and parental characteristics of medication use for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Participants were part of the prospective population-based Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort study (MoBa) ( = 114,500 children, 95,000 mothers, and 75,000 fathers). This cohort was linked to the Norwegian Prescription Database (NorPD) and the Norwegian Patient Registry (NPR) to compare child and parental characteristics in children medicated and not medicated for ADHD during years 2008-2013. One thousand seven hundred and sixty-four children (74% boys) with ADHD (International Classification of Diseases [ICD-10]: F90 and F98.8) were identified. One thousand three hundred and sixty-two (77%) used medication. Boys and girls did not differ in the use of ADHD medication (both 77%). Mean age at first prescription was 9 years in both boys and girls, and age at ADHD diagnosis was 8 years in medicated and unmedicated children. Significantly more hyperkinetic conduct disorders (F90.1), and significantly fewer with attention-deficit disorder (F98.8) were found among the medicated children compared to the unmedicated children. The medicated children also had a significantly lower global functioning (Child Global Assessment Scale). Child disruptive symptoms reported in the MoBa child age 3 year questionnaire were significantly higher in children who used medication compared to the nonusers ( = 2.2,  = 0.03), and group differences in ADHD symptoms at age 3 years were close to significant ( = 1.8,  = 0.07). Other preschool child and parental characteristics were not significantly different in the two groups. In this large birth cohort study, where a great majority of children with ADHD used medication, only child characteristics were significantly associated with the use of medication. We could not replicate previous findings suggesting that “environmental factors,” such as parental education and psychopathology, drive medication use. The small differences between medicated and unmedicated children in this cohort study, where a majority used medication, might be due to strong established clinical practices where medication is offered as a treatment option, particularly for hyperkinetic conduct disorder in an egalitarian high-income society.

References

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