ADHD News & Research

Study: Diagnosed and Subthreshold ADHD Equally Impair Educational Outcomes in Children

Children with diagnosed and subthreshold ADHD both experienced impaired academic and non-academic performance compared to controls used in an Australian study examining the two community cohorts.

December 21, 2020

Children with diagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) or with subthreshold ADHD (meeting some but not all of the required clinical criteria for ADHD) had equally poor educational outcomes and lower educational attainment compared to controls, according to a new Journal of Attention Disorders study.1

Data was draw from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children birth cohort and the Children’s Attention Project. Researchers compared the following outcomes between children (average age of 10.5) with diagnosed ADHD, subthreshold ADHD, and controls: reading and numeracy (academic), and school engagement, attendance, peer victimization, and parental expectations (non-academic).

Children with ADHD experienced academic delays of roughly 8 months, compared to children in the control group; children with subthreshold ADHD were similarly impacted. They reported feeling less engaged in school in comparison to children without ADHD and were three to four times more likely to be victimized by their peers at school. Children with diagnosed ADHD had the poorest outcomes, but there was no significant difference in performance between these children and children with subthreshold ADHD. This suggests that, regardless of whether a child reaches the diagnostic threshold for ADHD, its symptoms can significantly impact their achievement and performance at school.

These findings are significant considering “poor educational outcomes for individuals with ADHD limit employment, income opportunities and contribute to the high costs of ADHD, costing approximately $20 billion per year in Australia.”


1Zendarski N, Guo S, Sciberras E, et al. Examining the Educational Gap for Children with ADHD and Subthreshold ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders. December 2020. doi:10.1177/1087054720972790