Watch the whirling blur of a hyperactive 3 year old and you wonder what drives that kind of energy. According to Laura Knouse, Ph.D., some considerations for hyperactivity are cognitive development, foods and family factors. The gene DRD4 has also been examined as a possible contributor. A hyperactive 3 year old is usually inattentive, careless, distracted and impulsive. It is difficult for him to refrain from continually fidgeting and squirming or moving fingers and hands. Precautions are needed to ensure the energy release of the hyperactive 3-year-old risk taker is done in a healthy, safe, imaginative way. Demand for constant monitoring and engaging exhausts caregivers but is often rewarded with many smiles.
In a study done by Julie L. Friedman, Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, teachers tracked hyperactive 3 year olds and reported that even at this young age, children with symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention and aggression showed delayed cognitive development and appeared to be on track for a struggle with academic skills. The study did not find any difference in outcomes based on race, although girls, not boys, were mostly at risk.
Over a decade ago, University of Toronto psychiatrist James Kennedy was one of the first researchers to discover information on hyperactivity as related to genes. Kennedy found that the gene called DRD4 and its variant protein 7R appeared in half of the children he studied who had hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder, commonly called ADHD. This gene is known for causing thrill-seeking behavior among humans. This study has been followed up by other supporting studies, such as the one published in May 1999 in the "American Journal of Psychiatry." This research, along with James Kennedy's earlier studies, points to some understanding when considering why a hyperactive 3 year old would take careless risks and exhibit impulsive behavior. Definite conclusions are not yet formulated about how this gene variant impacts hyperactivity and passes from parent to child.
A six-week blind test involving primary-age children who drank food coloring elements and the preservative sodium benzoate added to beverages was conducted at Southampton University by Professor Jim Stevenson and published in September 2007. Part of the study involved 153 3 year olds from the general population. Parents, teachers and observers reported increased hyperactivity levels in the children after they had ingested the chemical drink. To allow for accurate data reporting, neither the children nor the parents, teachers and observers reporting knew which drinks contained the chemicals.
Similiar to the question of which comes first the chicken or the egg, a study published by Laura Knouse, Ph.D. entitled "Behavior Problem Subtypes in 3-Year-Olds: Validity, Family Factors, Stress, and Parenting" suggests is not easy to tell at the age of 3 which comes first--the stressful parents or the hyperactive 3 year old. It is certain child hyperactivity has a tendency to build stress in the family structure.This stress pressurizes the parents or caregiver, which has negative affects on parenting behaviors. Remember, when dealing with a hyperactive 3 year old, it is best to take a few deep breaths and keep a good sense of humor handy.
According to Kathleen S. Berger, Ph.D., an author and teacher of child development, at age 3, a child has self-centered thoughts and acts on those impulsively. Unfortunately, these self-centered thoughts coupled with a hyperactive child's inattentiveness, distraction, and carelessness can put the hyperactive 3 year old at high risk for injury. Compound this risk with non-logical reasoning typical to 3-year-old play and the risk becomes even higher. High-speed running, fearless jumping and climbing are just a few of these contributing danger factors. It is best to contain the child in safe, properly supervised play areas.