New Research Claims That 60 Percent of Kids with ADHD Will Still Have Symptoms as Adults

Past research has varied wildly on the rate at which ADHD symptoms persist as children grow into adults. Now, new data from a long-term longitudinal study shows that there’s a pretty good chance that a kid with ADHD will still struggle with ADHD symptoms as an adult.
ADHD News Feed | posted by Devon Frye

September 23, 2016

Will your child still have ADHD symptoms when she grows up? It’s hard to say for sure, but new data indicates that it’s more likely than not: in a long-term study conducted over nearly 20 years, more than 60 percent of children with ADHD continued to show symptoms in adulthood.

The study was part of the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD (MTA), a long-term multisite research project conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health — or NIMH for short. The first results of the MTA were published in 1999, but researchers are still using the follow-up data to draw conclusions about ADHD — particularly how it develops and its myriad of treatment options.

In this case, the researchers focused on the rate at which childhood ADHD symptoms persist into adulthood; previous studies have produced numbers anywhere between 5 and 75 percent. They looked at nearly 700 children (now adults) from the MTA, about two-thirds of whom had been diagnosed with ADHD as kids. Using parent rating scales, self-reports, and structured clinical interviews, the researchers found that approximately 60 percent of the children with ADHD still had demonstrable symptoms as adults. About 41 percent of them still demonstrated significant impairment from those ADHD symptoms.

The results varied based on the method of diagnosis, the researchers said; outside rating scales (particularly from parents or other family members) were more accurate than self-reports, leading researchers to believe that many adults may not even be aware of how their symptoms are actually affecting them.

“If you ask the adult about their continued symptoms, they will often be unaware of them,” said Dr. Margaret Sibley, the lead author of the study. “However, family members or others who know them well often confirm that they still observe significant symptoms in the adult.”

It’s also critical, Sibley added, to adjust diagnostic tools to more accurately reflect how ADHD looks in adults, instead of using the same scales that are used on children.

“By asking a family member about the adult’s symptoms and using adult-based definitions of the disorder, you typically find that around half of children with moderate to severe ADHD still show significant signs of the disorder in adulthood,” she concluded.

The results were published online September 19 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.


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