Background: Empirical evidence suggests that prenatal growth is associated with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and its symptoms. Data on the importance of postnatal growth is, however scanty. We studied whether pre- and postnatal growth up to 56 months is associated with symptoms of ADHD in children.
Method: A longitudinal regional birth cohort study comprising 893 children followed up to 56 months. The associations between pre- and postnatal growth and parent-rated ADHD symptoms of the child were analyzed with multiple linear regression analyses and repeated-measures analyzes of covariance.
Results: Children born lighter, thinner, shorter, and with a smaller head circumference, adjusted for length of gestation, received higher parent-rated ADHD symptoms scores at 56 months. Further, smaller head circumference throughout the period of growth from birth up to 56 months was related to higher ADHD symptoms scores. The associations changed only little after adjusting for several pre- and neonatal factors. The associations were not modified by sex and there were no evidence of non-linear associations.
Conclusions: Slower prenatal growth in weight, body-mass index, length, and head circumference may pose a risk for higher ADHD symptoms in childhood. The consistently smaller head circumference from birth up to 56 months characterizing children with higher ADHD symptoms may point to a lack of catch-up growth in head circumference in childhood as a predisposing factor.