Girls With Childhood ADHD as Adults: Cross-Domain Outcomes by Diagnostic Persistence

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Objective: To ascertain adult outcomes in 10 domains reflecting symptomatology (internalizing, externalizing, self-injury, substance use), attainment (education, employment), and impairment (health, social, driving, overall) as a function of both childhood diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and persistence of ADHD symptoms across time. Method: We prospectively followed 140 grade-school-aged girls with rigorously diagnosed childhood ADHD and 88 age- and ethnicity-matched comparison girls for 16 years. Outcome measures were obtained via self- and parent-report questionnaires, interviews, and objective tests. Results: Childhood ADHD, whether it remitted or persisted, was a pernicious risk factor for a limited number of poor outcomes, including low educational attainment, unplanned pregnancy, body mass index (BMI), and clinician-rated impairment. Childhood ADHD that persisted over time, whether completely or partially, was associated with a number of additional detrimental outcomes in the externalizing, internalizing, self-injury, occupational, social, and overall impairment domains. Finally, in this all-female sample, ADHD was not associated with objective measures of employment, substance use, or driving outcomes. Conclusions: We discuss the considerable impairments accruing from both childhood-limited and adult-persisting ADHD, with major implications for the health and well-being of females with this neurodevelopmental disorder.

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