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J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2013 Aug;41(6):919-27. doi: 10.1007/s10802-013-9735-y.

Stress-induced drinking in parents of boys with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder: heterogeneous groups in an experimental study of adult-child interactions.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA.


Research on whether parents of children with externalizing disorders are at elevated risk for alcohol problems is equivocal. To reduce this ambiguity, we examined how individual differences in stress reactivity might moderate the drinking behavior of such parents. Parents (119 mothers, 44 fathers) of ADHD sons interacted with different child confederates during each of two counter-balanced sessions. In one, the confederate portrayed a friendly, cooperative, "normal" boy; in the other, the confederate portrayed a "deviant" boy who exhibited behavior characteristic of externalizing disorders. Following each interaction, parents were given an opportunity for ad lib consumption of alcohol while anticipating a second interaction. Latent class analysis identified three subgroups of parents using distress scores and alcohol consumption: minimal stress reactivity; reacts to child deviance with increased distress, but not increased drinking; marked stress-induced drinking. Decisions about the nature and proper treatment of parents raising children with ADHD may be compromised by failure to attend to individual differences in stress reactivity and inclinations to use drinking to cope.

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