Researchers are beginning to question a finding that children from marriages that have ended in divorce are twice as likely to be prescribed drugs for attention-deficit disorder as children whose parents stay married. A Canadian study conducted found that more than 6 percent of 633 children from divorced families were prescribed Ritalin. Only 3.3 percent of children whose parents stayed married received this treatment. These numbers seem small but lead to large numbers of children when applied to the public population. The study began in 1994 with 4,700 children while all families were intact. They then followed up on these children regularly to check on the marital status of their family and to see what drugs were prescribed to them. Children of single parent families are also more likely to be prescribed mood changing drugs such as Ritalin, but researchers are asking questions about why this is.

Ritalin, also known as methylphenidate, is a psycho-stimulant drug most often given to kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The use of this drug to treat such a condition has tripled throughout the world since 1993. Researchers are beginning to wonder if the drug is being over-prescribed, especially to children who are misdiagnosed.

One possibility is that the results of divorce can cause children to act out so their doctor prescribes Ritalin to decrease their lashing out. This in itself is alarming since it shows kids that when you act out, you must be sedated, no matter what the reason for your actions are. This corrects the problem for the otherwise seemingly powerless parent, but the children are unable to get their anger towards their situation out. What researchers are truly worried about though is the idea that doctors may be so influenced by their patients’ personal life that they are more likely to diagnose a problem that isn’t there and over-prescribe Ritalin to kids who don’t really need it. They just need to get over their situation.


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