Developmental trajectories of childhood symptoms of hyperactivity/inattention and suicidal behavior during adolescence

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2020 Feb;29(2):145-151. doi: 10.1007/s00787-019-01338-0. Epub 2019 Apr 25.


Hyperactive/inattentive symptoms (ADHD symptoms) are associated with suicidal behavior in clinical studies, but there is still a lack of population-based longitudinal investigations on the developmental aspects of this association. Additionally, it is unclear whether the association is similar for boys and girls. The objectives of the study were to test the association between the ADHD symptoms during childhood and suicidal ideation and attempt during adolescence, and to investigate sex differences. 1407 children from the Québec Longitudinal Study of Child Development were followed up from 5 months to 17 years of age. We used teacher-reports of ADHD symptoms from 6 to 12 years, and self-report of suicidal ideation and attempt at 13, 15, and 17 years. We identified three ADHD symptoms trajectories: low (boys: 32.2%, girls: 48.7%), moderate (boys: 44.6%; girls: 42.2%) and high (boys: 23.2%; girls: 9.1%). Compared to boys on a low trajectory, boys on a moderate trajectory were at higher risk for suicidal ideation (OR 4.2, 95% CI 1.2-14.8), and boys on a high trajectory were at higher risk for suicide attempts (OR 4.5, 95% CI 1.1-17.9). Girls on moderate or high ADHD symptoms trajectories were not at higher risk for suicidal ideation or attempts than girls on low trajectories. For boys, but not for girls, moderate-to-high ADHD symptoms increased the suicidal risk in adolescence. Interventions with boys showing ADHD symptoms should include a suicide prevention component.

Keywords: Developmental trajectories; Hyperactivity; Inattention; Suicidal behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperkinesis / psychology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Suicidal Ideation*