Original Research

Knowledge and misconceptions of parents of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder at a hospital in South Africa

Neelkant R. Rajcumar, Saeeda Paruk
South African Family Practice | Vol 62, No 1 : Part 3| a5124 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v62i1.5124 | © 2020 Neelkant R. Rajcumar, Saeeda Paruk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 April 2020 | Published: 03 September 2020

About the author(s)

Neelkant R. Rajcumar, Discipline of Psychiatry, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Saeeda Paruk, Discipline of Psychiatry, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


Background: Parents’ knowledge and misconception about attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) influences their children’s access to care, its management and outcome. The study aimed to investigate parents’ knowledge and perceptions of ADHD.

Methods: The cross-sectional survey of 79 parents of children (aged 5–17 years) with ADHD at a specialist child psychiatry clinic in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, consisted of a socio-demographic and clinical questionnaire, and the Knowledge of Attention Disorders Scale questionnaire, was carried out.

Results: Twenty-six (32.9%) parents consulted a traditional healer, of whom 84.6% did so before consulting a medical doctor, with 61.5% reporting that the healer suggested psychiatric referral. Most parents had some knowledge of their child’s ADHD diagnosis but held various misconceptions about its treatment and associated factors: 92.4% believed that reducing sugar or food additives were effective to reduce symptoms; 78.5% that treatments focussing on punishment reduced the symptoms; 67.1% that prolonged use of stimulant medications leads to increased addiction (i.e. drug, alcohol) in adulthood.

Conclusion: Many parents had misconceptions about ADHD’s causes and treatment, some having consulted traditional healers, indicating the need to increase awareness among health practitioners to ensure timeous treatment access. A parent focussed psycho-education programme is required that provides information about causes, symptoms, treatment and prognosis.


misconceptions; cultural factors; KwaZulu-Natal; perception; child psychiatry; treatment; African mental healthcare setting


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