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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.
The DSM criteria for adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have not been tested in American Psychiatric Association (APA) field trials for either DSM-IV or DSM-5. This study aimed to assess: (a) the prevalence of ADHD according to DSM-5 criteria; (b) the factor solution that provides the best fit for ADHD symptoms; (c) the symptoms with the highest predictive value for clinical impairment; and (d) the best symptomatic threshold for each ADHD dimension (inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity).
Trained psychologists evaluated 4000 young adults from the 1993 Pelotas Birth Cohort Study with an instrument covering all DSM-5 ADHD criteria. A series of confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) tested the best factor structure. Complex logistic regressions assessed differential contributions of each symptom to clinical impairment. Receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) analyses tested which would be the best symptomatic cut-off in the number of symptoms for predicting impairment.
The prevalence of DSM-5 ADHD was 3.55% [95% confidence interval (CI) 2.98–4.12]. The estimated prevalence of DSM-IV ADHD was 2.8%. CFA revealed that a bifactor model with a single general factor and two specific factors provided the best fit for DSM-5 symptoms. Inattentive symptoms continued to be the most important predictors of impairment in adults. The best cut-offs were five symptoms of inattention and four symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity.
Our results, combined with previous findings, suggest a 27% increase in the expected prevalence of ADHD among young adults, comparing DSM-IV to DSM-5 criteria. The DSM-5 symptomatic organization derived a similar factor structure for adults as DSM-IV symptoms. Data using DSM-5 criteria support lowering the symptomatic threshold for diagnosing ADHD in adults.
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