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ADHD in childhood is associated with development of negative psychosocial and behavioural outcomes in adults. Yet, relatively little is known about which childhood and adulthood factors are predictive of these outcomes and could be targets for effective interventions. To date follow-up studies have largely used clinical samples from the United States with children ascertained at baseline using broad criteria for ADHD including all clinical subtypes or the use of DSM III criteria.
To identify child and adult predictors of comorbid and psychosocial comorbid outcomes in ADHD in a UK sample of children with DSM-IV combined type ADHD.
One hundred and eighteen adolescents and young adults diagnosed with DSM-IV combined type ADHD in childhood were followed for an average of 6 years. Comorbid mental health problems, drug and alcohol use and police contact were compared for those with persistent ADHD, sub-threshold ADHD and population norms taken from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Study 2007. Predictors included ADHD symptomology and gender.
Persistent ADHD was associated with greater levels of anger, fatigue, sleep problems and anxiety compared to sub-threshold ADHD. Comorbid mental health problems were predicted by current symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity, but not by childhood ADHD severity. Both persistent and sub-threshold ADHD was associated with higher levels of drug use and police contact compared to population norms.
Young adults with a childhood diagnosis of ADHD showed increased rates of comorbid mental health problems, which were predicted by current levels of ADHD symptoms. This suggests the importance of the continuing treatment of ADHD throughout the transitional years and into adulthood. Drug use and police contact were more common in ADHD but were not predicted by ADHD severity in this sample.
Many adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) remain undiagnosed. Specialist assessment clinics enable the detection of these cases, but such services are often overstretched. It has been proposed that unnecessary referrals to these services could be reduced by prioritizing individuals who score highly on the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ), a self-report questionnaire measure of autistic traits. However, the ability of the AQ to predict who will go on to receive a diagnosis of ASD in adults is unclear.
We studied 476 adults, seen consecutively at a national ASD diagnostic referral service for suspected ASD. We tested AQ scores as predictors of ASD diagnosis made by expert clinicians according to International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-10 criteria, informed by the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Generic (ADOS-G) and Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) assessments.
Of the participants, 73% received a clinical diagnosis of ASD. Self-report AQ scores did not significantly predict receipt of a diagnosis. While AQ scores provided high sensitivity of 0.77 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.72–0.82] and positive predictive value of 0.76 (95% CI 0.70–0.80), the specificity of 0.29 (95% CI 0.20–0.38) and negative predictive value of 0.36 (95% CI 0.22–0.40) were low. Thus, 64% of those who scored below the AQ cut-off were ‘false negatives’ who did in fact have ASD. Co-morbidity data revealed that generalized anxiety disorder may ‘mimic’ ASD and inflate AQ scores, leading to false positives.
The AQ's utility for screening referrals was limited in this sample. Recommendations supporting the AQ's role in the assessment of adult ASD, e.g. UK NICE guidelines, may need to be reconsidered.
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