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Previous research has suggested that there is substantial heterogeneity in the developmental trajectories of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Sometimes, qualitative distinctions between trajectories with different ages of onset and/or patterns of remission are made; however, little is known about the predictors and broader clinical meaningfulness of these candidate ‘developmental subtypes’ of ADHD symptoms.
We applied latent class growth analysis to data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study (MCS; N = 11 316; ages 3, 5, 7, 11 and 14) to evaluate whether developmental trajectories of ADHD symptoms differing in early life predictors could be identified. Our optimal model included six trajectory groups, labelled unaffected (34.9% of the sample), mildly affected (24.1%), subclinical remitting (12.8%), pre-school onset partially remitting (14.1%), developmentally increasing (7.6%) and pre-school onset persistent (6.4%).
Factors such as gender, conduct problems, cognitive ability, maternal education, premature birth, peer problems and school readiness scores differentiated between specific ADHD symptom trajectories.
Taken together, our findings provide preliminary evidence that distinguishing different trajectories of ADHD symptoms could be clinically informative.