Wealthier children are more likely to take stimulants only during the school year and not during the summer, according to a study in American Sociological Review. And they are also more likely to do so if they are living in a state where schools face legal accountability requirements for children to perform to certain standards.
“By analyzing a dataset that includes the majority of prescriptions written for stimulants in the United States, we find a substantial effect of schooling on stimulant use,” wrote the researchers. “In our study, one in three children engaged in school-based stimulant use — that is, increasing stimulant medications during the academic year. This practice was more common among children and adolescents of higher socioeconomic status.”
The researchers also found that, “In states with more stringent accountability policies, we observed greater selective stimulant use.”
“Collectively, our findings suggest that economically advantaged families are more likely than their less advantaged peers to use stimulants in response to academic performance pressure,” the researchers concluded. “Our study uncovers a new pathway through which medical interventions may act as a resource for higher socioeconomic status families to transmit educational advantages to their children, either intentionally or unwittingly.” The researchers also noted, however, that the scientific literature did not provide evidence that stimulant use improves school performance over the long term.
Another study previously reported by Mad In America found links between school performance accountability legislation and increases in stimulant prescribing.
(Abstract) Medical Adaptation to Academic Pressure Schooling, Stimulant Use, and Socioeconomic Status (King, Marissa D. et al. American Sociological Review. Published online before print October 13, 2014, doi: 10.1177/0003122414553657)