Lax parents blamed for 'attention deficit' behaviour

Ashlie Benjamin Hocking abh2n at cobra.cs.Virginia.EDU
Tue Jul 29 10:42:55 EST 2003

In article <bfjcdv$o49 at>, "Jeff Utz"
<kidsdoc2000 at> wrote:
>>>:> Considering that there are definite differences in brains between
>>>:> people with ADHD and people without it, and other biological
>>>:> differences, like differences in reactions to drugs, I believe
>>>:> that, without a doubt, ADHD is real.

In Matthew Kirkcaldie <Matthew.Kirkcaldie at> wrote:
>>>: Could you cite the differences, and the papers which document
>>>: them? I'm genuinely interested.

In article <bfm1b0$ggc$1 at>,
Emma Chase VanCott <7elc at> wrote:
>>> Their saccades are different, for starters...

"Matthew Kirkcaldie" <Matthew.Kirkcaldie at> wrote in message
news:Matthew.Kirkcaldie-8FB1D7.15035229072003 at
>> That's not a difference in their brains, and nor is it a biological
>> difference, which is what the original poster stated.
>> Saccades are a behaviour - and if you're looking for behavioural
>> differences you could start with the criteria by which they're adjudged
>> to have ADHD!  It's hardly surprising that gross behavioural changes are
>> accomapnied by less noticeable changes such as the saccades you mention
>> (without attribution, by the way).

"John H." <john at> writes:
> Incorrect, saccades are not under conscious control. Besides, schizophrenics
> also show differences in saccades and Sch is most definitely an organic
> disorder.

I'd say that John is right in spirit, if not in the letter. (I.e., I'm
basically seconding his opinion, but being a little nit-picky.)
Saccades are not under conscious control (for the most part), but they
are definitely a behavior. So is vomiting. That doesn't mean that
there is not a biological cause to the vomiting just because it's a

Having said that, I think that behaviorism can do a lot towards
understanding the root causes of some forms of ADD, if not all. It is
quite conceivable that some cases of ADD are largely due to the
environment, and it is likely that some cases of ADD are largely due
to genetics. (And of course, there is no clear dividing line between
the two.)

There is lots of anecdotal evidence linking ADD to lax parents, just
like there appeared to be lots of anecdotal evidence linking autism to
"the refrigerator mother". For those not aware of recent changes
(well, not so recent actually) in this theory, "the refrigerator
mother" has been soundly shown to be a bunch of stuffing-nonsense -
the vast majority of autistic children have parents who are incredibly
warm and loving. I don't know the percentages, or if it's even
possibly to measure, but I suspect the parents of autistic children
are on average very similar to parents of non-autistic children. Of
course, parents with high-functioning autism are more likely to have
children with autism. Maybe this is where the refrigerator mother
thing started, I don't know.

Personally, I've done a lot of research with large neural networks and
can definitely state that, even with networks that are approximately
the same, identical inputs (i.e., environments) do not produce
identical results. I know this is an obvious statement, but should be
said anyway. Even when I train my networks with the best paradigm,
some networks refuse to learn what they should learn. I'm sure on a
drastically simplified scale this is similar to parenting. Of course,
I have the advantage of knowing exactly what inputs my networks are
receiving and parents are not so lucky.

Ranting aside, I'm sure that applied behavior analysis can do much to
help with ADD (just as it has with autism), but that there are
probably many cases where certain drugs can help. Conversely, I'm also
confident that drugs are currently being overprescribed, at least in
the US in order to placate parents who want a quick-fix. 

                          | "Good and evil both increase at compound
Ben Hocking, Grad Student | interest. That is why the little
hocking at   | decisions you and I make every day are of
                          | such infinite importance." - C. S. Lewis

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