The relationship between early adversities and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Child Abuse Negl. 2015 Sep:47:94-101. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2015.03.005. Epub 2015 Apr 15.


This study examined whether retrospectively reported childhood physical abuse, childhood sexual abuse and/or exposure to parental domestic violence were associated with self-report of a health-professional diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among adults. We analyzed nationally representative data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health using gender-specific bivariate and logistic regression analyses (n=10,496 men; n=12,877 women). For both men and women, childhood physical abuse was associated with significantly higher odds of reporting ADHD (men odds ratio [OR]=1.66, p<.001; women OR=1.95, p<.001). For both genders, childhood sexual abuse was also significantly related to higher odds of ADHD (men OR=2.57, p<.001; women OR=2.55, p<.001); however, exposure to parental domestic violence was only associated with elevated odds of ADHD among women (men OR=0.89, p=.60; women OR=1.54, p=.03). The results demonstrate a link between childhood physical and sexual abuse and ADHD for both men and women. Future prospective studies are required to further understand this interesting relationship.

Keywords: Adult survivors of child abuse; Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs); Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder; Child maltreatment; Physical abuse; Sexual abuse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Domestic Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parents
  • Young Adult