Prevalence of methylphenidate use among Canadian children following parental divorce

Strohschein, Lisa A.
June 2007
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;6/5/2007, Vol. 176 Issue 12, p1711
Academic Journal
Background: Evidence suggests that children living in single-parent or step-parent households are more likely than children in households with 2 biological parents to be prescribed methylphenidate. I conducted a study of prospective data to investigate parental divorce as a predictor of methylphenidate use. Methods: I used data for children who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth from 1994 to 2000. The sample was restricted to children who remained in the survey in 2000 and who, at initial interview, lived in a household with 2 biological parents ( n= 4784). A generalized estimating equation model was used to compare the odds ratios of methylphenidate use among children whose parents obtained a divorce between 1994 and 2000 relative to children whose parents remained married during this period. Results: Between 1994 and 2000, 633 children (13.2%) experienced the divorce of their parents. The proportion of children who received methylphenidate at any time between 1994 and 2000 was 3.3% among those whose parents remained married and 6.1% among those whose parents divorced during this period. After adjustment for age of the mother and sex and age of the child, I found that methylphenidate use was significantly higher among children whose parents subsequently divorced than among those whose parents remained married (odds ratio 1.82, 95% confidence interval 1.01-3.33). Interpretation: The increased risk of children receiving a prescription for methylphenidate in the period following parental divorce raises questions about the causal links in this association. Future research is needed to replicate these findings and to investigate possible explanations.


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