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ADHD Haunts Children into Adulthood, Study Shows

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ADHD Haunts Children into Adulthood, Study Shows


Updated: Aug 22nd 2005

WASHINGTON -- The problems of untreated attention-deficit disorder don't end when kids grow up. Young adults who had ADHD are more likely than their peers to get fired, to shun birth control and become parents by age 21 and to have higher credit card debt and less savings, according to a 13-year study reported over the weekend.

Although estimates vary, many children with ADHD go on to have it as adults, says psychologist Mariellen Fischer of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Government figures show that about 1 out of 20 adults have ADHD.

Fischer released her study with co-author Russell Barkley at the American Psychological Association meeting here. They followed 147 children with ADHD by age 7, comparing them with 76 neighbor children who didn't have the disorder. Most ADHD children took medication for a couple of years, but few were being treated by their early 20s, Fischer says.

Adults who had ADHD as kids started having sex a year earlier than classmates. About a third dropped out of high school, compared with none of the neighbor kids, Fischer says. And 1 out of 3 had become parents by their early 20s vs. 1 in 25 of the classmates. They had less than half the savings of young adults they had grown up with and more debt. Yet researchers don't know whether ADHD alone causes these ill effects.

Though ADHD is genetic, there has been much less research on it in adults than children. Mothers of ADHD children are 24 times as likely as the average woman to have it, and fathers' odds are 5 times higher than average, says psychologist Andrea Chronis of the University of Maryland.

Her research, believed the first to focus on how mothers with ADHD do as parents, studied 70 families with elementary-school-age children. The women often weren't very involved with their children; they didn't give praise or show affection regularly, and discipline was inconsistent, Chronis says. Most of their children also had ADHD, and these parenting practices could worsen the problem, she adds.

Because attention-deficit disorder runs in families, perhaps doctors should suggest that parents of children with the disorder also get checked for it, Chronis says.

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