Hyperactivity in children is linked to poverty and maternal diabetes, according to a first-of-its kind study published in the January issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

The study investigated six-year-olds and found a correlation between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the two parental factors, poverty and gestational diabetes.

To our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate how prenatal exposure to gestational diabetes and low socioeconomic status together contribute to the development of ADHD, Yoko Nomura, lead author of the study and psychology professor, said. The results show these children are at far greater risk for developing ADHD or showing signs of impaired neurocognitive and behavioral development.

In the study, researchers at Queens College and Mount Sinai, compared 115 children who lived in poverty or whose mothers had diabetes or both with 97 children who had neither. The comparisons were made at ages three, four and six years.

The researchers followed up with interviews with parents and teachers. Although the study did not show cause, it pointed out potential risk factors for hyperactive children.

 Physicians and health care professionals need to educate their patients who have a family history of diabetes and who come from lower income households on the risk for developing ADHD, Jeffrey Halperin, psychology professor at Queens College and author on the study. Even more important is the need for obstetricians, pediatricians, and internists to work together to identify these risks.