Dr. Cindy Taylor

Clinical Psychologist

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Home ADD Symptoms Through the LifeSpan

ADHD Symptoms through the Lifespan

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 We know that ADHD continues from childhood to adulthood in many people.  Some seem to improve or get less hyperactive and inattentive, and some go on to develop a variety of other symptoms like anxiety and depression, addictive behaviors, etc.  One of the primary tasks in diagnosing ADHD in adults is to establish a lifetime history of ADHD symptoms beginning in childhood.  With some individuals having many other symptoms present, it is important to examine the consistency  and pervasiveness of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity in the person’s life.   With the current diagnostic criteria containing 18 symptoms of these core symptoms (inattention,hyperactivity, and impulsivity), an assessment is made both presently as reported by the client and retrospectively by the parent.    The intent of this study was to determine 1) the similarity of overall ratings by different raters in different time periods and 2) to determine which of the 18  symptoms of ADHD were most constant throughout the lifespan.  We examined self and parent reports of 81 subjects.  The individuals in this study were 17 to 59 years of age with a mean age of 29.8 years.  Instruments used were the ADHD Rating Scale (ARS - DSM-IV version), which is comprised of the 18 symptoms of ADHD.  The ARS was completed by the parents of the adults as part of a comprehensive assessment battery.  The parents were asked to complete it retrospectively, reporting the adult’s symptoms in childhood (between the ages of 6 and 12).  The adults were
administered the Checklist for Differential Diagnosis of Attentional Problems (CDDAP) which also contains the 18 symptoms of ADHD.  Items on the ARS and the CDDAP are scored on a scale of 0 to 3 with 0 points for a response of “Never”, 1 for “Sometimes”,  2 for “Often”, and 3 for Almost Always.”    The first analysis examined the correlation between  the total score on the ARS and the corresponding total score on the CDDAP. Results did indicate a small but significant positive correlation between these two scores (r = .25, p < .05).  These results indicate that there was some consistency in the overall number and severity of ADHD symptoms from early childhood to adulthood as well as across different raters.  In other words, the parents opinion was similar to the adult’s  self reported symptoms many years later.  Because of the significant relationship between overall symptoms, individual items were next examined in order to determine the individual symptoms most persistent from childhood through adulthood. Interestingly, only 4 sets of symptoms were significantly correlated.  The highest correlation was between identical items: “Often talks excessively” (r = .60, p < 0001).  The second highest was between “Often talks excessively” and “Has difficulty awaiting turn” (r = .41, p < .03). The next is between “Often talks excessively”  and  “Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed”  (r = .41, p < .04)  and lastly, “Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities” on both the CDDAP and the ARS was significantly correlated (r = .40, p < 05).  Interesting results!  Talking excessively, blurting things out, can’t wait their turn, and losing things were the items responsible for consistency in ratings from childhood through
adulthood.  It appears that the most persistent symptoms were mostly related to talking or impulsivity rather than to either attention or hyperactivity.  Maybe those are the ones that were most bothersome to parents - losing things and talking too much.    Interested in the other symptoms?  OK, here’s the complete list of matching symptoms for the ADHD subjects:  

Correlations between Parent and Self-Reports of ADHD Symptoms in the ADHD Group.

Symptom Description   r     p <

Careless Mistakes       .13    1

Attention to tasks     .11   1

Does not Listen        .00   1

Fails to Finish Tasks   .12   1

Difficulty Organizing  .21   1

Dislikes sustained effort   .12 1

Loses things             .40  .05

Easily distracted        .22   1

Forgetful                 .27  1

Fidgets                   .29   1

Can’t stay seated    .38  .16

Restless                 .03   1

Difficulty doing leisure
   activities quietly   .05   1

Always on the go   .11   1

Talks excessively    .61 .001

Blurts out answers  .36 .33

Difficulty awaiting
   turn                  .36  .27

Interrupts others   .24   1

 We also examined 68 subjects who did not have ADHD.  When compared to the ADHD group, they reported less current symptoms of ADHD, and their parents reported fewer childhood symptoms.  In examining symptoms through the lifespan, there were some of the same symptoms that were long-standing in nature.  For this non-ADHD group, the highest correlations were between “Often blurts out answers” in childhood and adulthood (r = .50, p < .01), “Often blurts out answers” in childhood and “Interrupts others” in adulthood (r = .49, p < .01), and between “Often talks excessively” in childhood and adulthood.

Correlations between Parent and Self-Reported ADHD Symptoms in Non-ADHD Group.

Symptom Description               r            p <

Careless Mistakes                   .00           1

Attention to tasks                 .10           1

Does not Listen                    .14           1

Fails to Finish Tasks               .27           1

Difficulty Organizing              .24           1

Dislikes sustained
    effort                            -.10           1

Loses things                       .16           1

Easily distracted                 -.05           1

Forgetful                          .28            1

Fidgets                            .13            1

Can’t stay seated              .36           1

Restless                          .10           1

Difficulty doing leisure
   activities quietly            .17          1

Always on the go            .37         .59

Talks excessively             .45         .05

Blurts out answers          .50         .01

Difficulty waiting turn      .25           1

Interrupts others           .27           1

Last Updated on Monday, 25 August 2014 23:58  

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