Does pharmacological treatment of ADHD in adults enhance parenting performance? Results of a double-blind randomized trial

James G. Waxmonsky, D. A. Waschbusch, D. E. Babinski, H. H. Humphrey, A. Alfonso, K. I. Crum, M. Bernstein, J. Slavec, J. N. Augustus, W. E. Pelham

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21 Scopus citations


Objective: This study examines the effects of parental lisdexamfetamine (LDX) treatment on parent-child interactions. Methods: Participants were 30 parents (27 % were male) and their children aged 5-12 years, both diagnosed with DSM-IV attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Optimal LDX dose (30, 50, or 70 mg/day) was determined for parents during a 3-week open-label titration, followed by a within-subjects trial of the acute impact of LDX and placebo on observable parent-child interactions. Two laboratory-based, parent-child interactions simulating typical family tasks (e.g., homework, joint play) were conducted within 2 weeks, once with the adult on a blinded optimal dose of LDX and once on placebo (phase I). Parents were then randomly assigned to continue blinded treatment with LDX or placebo for another month followed by a third interaction task (phase II) to assess the ongoing effects of LDX on parent-child interactions. The primary outcome was the change in rate of parenting behaviors coded during the parent-child interaction tasks. Secondary outcomes included observed rates of children's inappropriate behaviors during the laboratory tasks and changes in parental ADHD symptom severity (ADHD-Rating Scale). Results: Twenty parents (67 %) completed the trial. In phase I, medication was associated with a significant reduction in negative talk by parents (p = 0.0066, d = -0.47). There was a Medication × Task interaction (p = 0.0235) with a reduction in children's negative behaviors in the homework phase only (p = 0.0154, d = -0.58). In phase II, LDX was associated with significant increases in praise by parents (d = 0.81) and reductions in parental commands (d = -0.88) and children's inappropriate behaviors (d = -0.84) (all p-values < 0.05). While not reaching statistical significance, LDX was also associated with large reductions in parental verbalizations (d = -0.82), moderate increases in parental responsiveness (d = 0.55), and large reductions in the ratio of commands to verbalizations during the non-homework task (d = -1.05) (all p-values < 0.10). Significant reductions in parental ADHD symptoms vs. placebo were observed (p < 0.005). Loss of appetite, dry mouth, headaches, and delayed sleep onset were the most common adverse events. Conclusions: Improvements in parent-child interactions emerged over time with LDX treatment of parental ADHD. Results suggest that pharmacological treatment of parental ADHD may improve outcomes in parents and their children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)665-677
Number of pages13
JournalCNS Drugs
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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