Trends in psychopathology across the adolescent years: what changes when children become adolescents, and when adolescents become adults?

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2011 Oct;52(10):1015-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2011.02446.x. Epub 2011 Aug 4.


Background: Little is known about changes in the prevalence of psychiatric disorders between childhood and adolescence, and adolescence and adulthood.

Methods: We reviewed papers reporting prevalence rates of psychiatric disorders separately for childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Both longitudinal and cross-sectional papers published in the past 15 years were included.

Results: About one adolescent in five has a psychiatric disorder. From childhood to adolescence there is an increase in rates of depression, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and substance use disorders (SUD), and a decrease in separation anxiety disorder (SAD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). From adolescence to early adulthood there is a further increase in panic disorder, agoraphobia, and SUD, and a further decrease in SAD and ADHD. Other phobias and disruptive behavior disorders also fall.

Conclusions: Further study of changes in rates of disorder across developmental stages could inform etiological research and guide interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Psychopathology / trends*