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Pediatrics. 2010 Mar;125(3):e489-98. doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-1285. Epub 2010 Feb 1.

The course of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms after foster placement.

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  • 1Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, Department of Pediatrics, 320 E 94th St, New York, NY 10128, USA.



It is largely unknown whether symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity of foster children decline over time after placement and what the role of the quality and stability of the foster placement is on the course of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptom trajectories. Longitudinal studies of normative trajectories of symptom types in nonreferred children may assist in appropriately diagnosing ADHD and designing the clinical treatment for foster children.


We described average level and slope of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms over time and examined parental (biological and foster) warmth and hostility and placement stability (number of foster-home moves and discharge from care) as reported by 3 informants (biological parent, foster parent, and classroom teacher) after considering maltreatment risks (child age, gender, sibling ADHD, and comorbidity) and use of ADHD medication.


We studied 252 maltreated children in 95 families during 4 yearly waves, beginning shortly after placement; children were assessed whether they remained in or were discharged from foster care.


Average level of inattention declined according to the biological parent, whereas hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms declined according to both biological and foster parents. Higher inattention was associated with lower parental warmth (foster parent), higher parental hostility (biological, foster, and teacher), and discharge from care (biological parent). Higher hyperactivity was also associated with lower parental warmth (foster parent) and higher parental hostility (biological and foster parent), higher (average) number of foster-home moves, and discharge from care (biological report). Higher teacher-derived hyperactivity symptoms were associated with a history of child abuse (versus neglect); however, abused children showed a steeper decline of hyperactivity over time than those with neglect histories. Unexpected interactions were found for the impact over time of parental (foster) warmth and number of foster-home moves.


Findings point to the clinical usefulness of attending to the parenting quality and placement stability as malleable factors affecting symptom reduction subsequent to placement.

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