Objective: Numerous studies have examined the adolescent and young adult fate of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In marked contrast, relatively little is known about the adult outcome of these children. There have been only two controlled, prospective studies of psychiatric status into adulthood. The present study was conducted to gain further understanding of the natural course of this common childhood condition.
Method: This was a prospective follow-up of clinically diagnosed, white boys of average intelligence who were referred by teachers to a child psychiatric research clinic at an average age of 7.3 years. At a mean age of 24.1 years, 85 probands (82% of the childhood cohort) and 73 comparison subjects (94% of adolescent comparison subjects) were directly interviewed by trained clinicians who were blind to group status.
Results: Evaluations of the probands and comparison subjects indicated significantly higher prevalences of antisocial personality disorder (12% versus 3%) and nonalcohol substance abuse (12% versus 4%) in the probands, whereas mood disorders (4% versus 4%) and anxiety disorders (2% versus 7%) were not significantly different. At adult follow-up, ADHD was rare, occurring in only 4% of the probands (no comparison subjects).
Conclusions: The results of the present study are consistent with the authors' previously reported major findings. They strongly suggest that children with ADHD are at significantly higher risk for a specific negative course marked by antisocial and substance-related disorders.