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Coronation Street: Examining the Usual (ADHD) Suspects

Zoe Kessler with a TiaraI’ve been asked by readers to follow up on the ever-evolving Coronation Street plot featuring 7 (or 8, depending on the source) year-old Max as a potential candidate for the dreaded ADHD diagnosis.

So here’s the promised update (as of the Canadian programming schedule; further episodes have aired elsewhere and, spoiler alert, it looks like Max goes on medication and it helps).

Sugar and spice and tv’s not nice… apparently…

So far we’ve got television and ice cream as two alleged culprits cited as the source of Max’s behavior. The usual suspects. But what do the experts say?

One study says:

“However, in a sugar elimination intervention study, there was no evidence that refined sugar affected child behavior.”1

It appears that the jury on sugar may still be out. A study called The effect of sugar on behavior or cognition in children. A meta-analysis2 concludes:

“However, a small effect of sugar or effects on subsets of children cannot be ruled out.”

Still, Max’s behavior is anything but small, it’s over-the-top huge, so even if one of the subsets referred to above is kids who have ADHD, Gail’s (Kylie’s mother-in-law) boyfriend Michael is hardly to blame for being Max’s ice cream dealer and thereby causing his ADHD-hyper behavior. He may head back to jail in the future, but sugar peddling will not be his crime.

I want my MTV

And what about the telly? It’s commonly believed that watching too much of it programs kids for ADHD. But is that true?

A 2012 study shows that tv, while not the cause of ADHD, might have something to do with Max’s apparent inability to pay attention:

“Most cross-sectional studies have found attention problems [22], [23] and ADHD symptoms [24] to be associated with more media time. With the exception of one study that lacked an acceptable measure of ADHD [25] all longitudinal studies reported evidence that television exposure is a risk factor for subsequent attention problems [24], [26], [27], [28].”3

Again, the evidence may not be conclusive, but the characters on Coronation Street might be onto something. But it’s not what they think: we’re mistaken when we confuse tv as contributing to inattentiveness and ADHD symptoms with too much tv as a cause for ADHD. This has not been proven. Most research supports the idea that ADHD is inherited by the majority who have it, and caused by an injury of some sort by the rest of us (brain damage from a car accident, for example, can simulate the symptoms of ADHD.)

The bad parenting theory

Mom Kylie continues to blame herself. Unlike the sugar and tv hypotheses, blaming parents for their kids’ ADHD is highly unpopular. Like the sugar and tv hypotheses, the situation isn’t as clear-cut as some would like.

While lousy parenting doesn’t seem to be the cause of ADHD (it’s largely genetic, remember?), poor parental behaviors certainly won’t make the situation any better. Some experts proscribe to the theory that poor parenting skills can, in fact, throw ADHD symptoms off the charts.

This sounds like blame; it isn’t. Parents do their best, but especially if there is little or no understanding about ADHD in the home, missteps are likely to happen. In lieu of a diagnosis, for example, how is a mom supposed to know that a parenting style she uses with her non-ADHD child might backfire when applied to little Miss or Mr. ADHD? This was certainly the case in my home, with my sister vividly remembering family quarrels where I was devastated (being hypersensitive to conflict, easily overwhelmed, and suffering from typical ADHD emotional sensitivity) while others remained unscathed.

Kylie’s beating herself up over handling her son Max badly is not going to help the situation.

Understandably, Kylie’s worried that Max will be judged for his behaviors, but wishing they had a “normal” family won’t help either. Every family is different, and seeing Max’s behavior as normal for him would be a good starting-point.

We love you just the way you are

Once you come to see the positive side of ADHD traits, normal (if that even exists) starts to look pretty over-rated. Besides, if Kylie’s family was “normal,” they’d be written off the Street pretty quick, and nobody wants that.

So what’s next for Max? He’s off to see a specialist for his diagnosis.

To be continued…


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1 Dietary Patterns in Children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

2 The effect of sugar on behavior or cognition in children.

3 Association of Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder with Physical Activity, Media Time, and Food Intake in Children and Adolescents

Coronation Street: Examining the Usual (ADHD) Suspects

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2014). Coronation Street: Examining the Usual (ADHD) Suspects. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Sep 2014
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