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ADHD diagnosis requires the presence of symptoms before the age of twelve. In clinical assessment of adults, the most frequent strategy to check this criterion is investigating self-report recall of symptoms, despite little evidence on the validity of this approach. We aim to evaluate the recall accuracy and factors associated with its reliability in a large population-based sample of adults.
Individuals from the 1993 Pelotas Birth Cohort were followed-up from childhood to adulthood. At the age of 22, 3810 individuals were assessed through structured interviews by trained psychologists regarding mental health outcomes, including ADHD diagnosis and ADHD symptoms in childhood. The retrospective recall was compared with available information on ADHD childhood symptoms at the age of eleven. We also assessed factors related to recall accuracy through multiple regression analyses.
Self-reported recall of childhood symptoms at 22 years of age had an accuracy of only 55.4%, with sensitivity of 32.8% and positive predictive value of 40.7%. Current inattention symptoms were associated with lower risk and social phobia with higher risk for false-positive endorsement, while higher levels of schooling correlated with lower risk and male gender with higher risk for false-negative endorsement.
Clinicians treating male patients with social phobia and ADHD symptoms should assess even more carefully retrospective recall of ADHD childhood symptoms. Moreover, characteristics associated with recall improvement do not impact accuracy robustly. In this context, the recall of childhood ADHD symptoms seems an unreliable method to characterize the neurodevelopmental trajectory in adults with currently-impairing ADHD symptomatology.
There are still uncertainties on the psychometric validity of the DSM-5 attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) criteria for its use in the adult population. We aim to describe the adult ADHD phenotype, to test the psychometric properties of the DSM-5 ADHD criteria, and to calculate the resulting prevalence in a population-based sample in their thirties.
A cross-sectional evaluation using the DSM-5 ADHD criteria was carried out in 3574 individuals from the 1982 Pelotas Birth Cohort. Through receiver operator curve, latent and regression analyses, we obtained parameters on construct and discriminant validity. Still, prevalence rates were calculated for different sets of criteria.
The latent analysis suggested that the adult ADHD phenotype is constituted mainly by inattentive symptoms. Also, inattention symptoms were the symptoms most associated with impairment. The best cut-off for diagnosis was four symptoms, but sensitivity and specificity for this cut-off was low. ADHD prevalence rates were 2.1% for DSM-5 ADHD criteria and 5.8% for ADHD disregarding age-of-onset criterion.
The bi-dimensional ADHD structure proposed by the DSM demonstrated both construct and discriminant validity problems when used in the adult population, since inattention is a much more relevant feature in the adult phenotype. The use of the DSM-5 criteria results in a higher prevalence of ADHD when compared to those obtained by DSM-IV, and prevalence would increase almost threefold when considering current ADHD syndrome. These findings suggest a need for further refinement of the criteria for its use in the adult population.
Course and predictors of persistence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults are still largely unknown. Neurobiological and clinical differences between child and adult ADHD raise the need for follow-up studies of patients diagnosed during adulthood. This study investigates predictors of ADHD persistence and the possibility of full remission 7 years after baseline assessment.
A 7-year follow-up study of adults with ADHD (n = 344, mean age 34.1 years, 49.9% males) was conducted. Variables from different domains (social demographics, co-morbidities, temperament, medication status, ADHD measures) were explored with the aim of finding potential predictors of ADHD persistence.
Retention rate was 66% (n = 227). Approximately a third of the sample (n = 70, 30.2%) did not maintain ADHD criteria and 28 (12.4%) presented full remission (<4 symptoms), independently of changes in co-morbidity or cognitive demand profiles. Baseline predictors of diagnostic persistence were higher number of inattention symptoms [odds ratio (OR) 8.05, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.54–25.45, p < 0.001], number of hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms (OR 1.18, 95% CI 1.04–1.34, p = 0.01), oppositional defiant disorder (OR 3.12, 95% CI 1.20–8.11, p = 0.02), and social phobia (OR 3.59, 95% CI 1.12–11.47, p = 0.03).
Despite the stage of brain maturation in adults suggests stability, approximately one third of the sample did not keep full DSM-IV diagnosis at follow-up, regardless if at early, middle or older adulthood. Although full remission is less common than in childhood, it should be considered as a possible outcome among adults.
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