ADHD and the Transition to Adulthood

Future of Children researchers Janet Currie and Robert Kahn find that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is almost three times more likely than asthma to contribute to childhood disability. Indeed, more than one in five parents of a child with a disability report that ADHD is an underlying condition. However, Neal Halfon and colleagues note that ADHD is not limited to children, and recent studies underline its growing prevalence across the lifespan.

Recently, Fox News highlighted findings of the first population-based study to follow children with ADHD into adulthood. The Mayo Clinic study found that nearly a third of children diagnosed with the disorder still had ADHD by age 27. Furthermore, among those who still had the disorder as adults, 81 percent also had at least one other psychiatric disorder. Some research has suggested that children with ADHD may be somewhat more likely to experience setbacks such as repeating a grade or going to prison.

These findings have important implications for practitioners and policymakers who are concerned with children’s mental health. Future of Children authors Liam Delaney and James P. Smith report that although we have strong evidence that medication combined with behavioral interventions can alleviate some symptoms of ADHD, we know little about the long-term consequences. For vulnerable populations making the transition to adulthood, including children with mental health problems, D. Wayne Osgood and colleagues recommend strengthening programs and improving existing systems of care for children and adolescents. See the Future of Children issues on Children with Disabilities and the Transition to Adulthood for more information.