There’s a stunningly uninformed piece on the op ed page of the New York Times today that opposes the use of Ritalin and other stimulant medications for children with ADHD. This piece is so bad it hurts me to link to it. The writer, a psychology professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota named L. Allan Sroufe, claims to have analyzed the available data and found that medication doesn’t do these kids any good except in the very short run.

It will take some time to work through all that’s wrong with his analysis of the research (which, believe me, we will do). But it doesn’t take a lot of time to explain what’s wrong with his other outrageous claim: that parents cause ADHD.

He argues that the brain differences neurobiologists have identified in kids with ADHD could have environmental causes, including poverty and bad parenting:

Plenty of affluent children are also diagnosed with ADD. Behavior problems in children have many possible sources. Among them are family stresses like domestic violence, lack of social support from friends or relatives, chaotic living situations, including frequent moves, and, especially, patterns of parental intrusiveness that involve stimulation for which the baby is not prepared. For example, a 6-month-old baby is playing, and the parent picks it up quickly from behind and plunges it in the bath. Or a 3-year-old is becoming frustrated in solving a problem, and a parent taunts or ridicules. Such practices excessively stimulate and also compromise the child’s developing capacity for self-regulation.

This would be laughably bad if parent-bashing wasn’t such a popular activity among people who don’t have direct experience with families of children with psychiatric and learning disorders. If there’s anything the parents struggling to do the best for kids with real problems don’t need it’s nonsense like this. This guy probably still thinks autism is caused by cold mothers.