Follow-ups of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Review of literature

N Lie
Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. Supplementum 1992, 368: 1-40
The purpose of this review has been to examine the hypothesis that the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), formerly also referred to as the Hyperactive Syndrome or Minimal Brain Dysfunction (MBD), is a precursor of criminality and abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs. This has been done by reviewing findings from follow-ups. Most reviewed projects suffer from methodological weakness. In most materials, few if any of the cases had ADHD according to present criteria. Some had ADHD and conduct problems. Many probably had exclusively conduct problems, but were too young to fulfill the criteria of Conduct Disorder (CD). Methodological limitations of the examined projects have been pointed out. It has been discussed how weaknesses regarding research design might have influenced the results. As a consequence of methodological shortcomings of most projects, the reviewed studies do not give definite answers. However, they show some rather convincing trends. By early adulthood, ADHD appears to remain present in at least one third of the subjects. Subjects with prior ADHD did not have more mental problems than controls in adolescence and early adulthood, provided they had normal intelligence, and no additional disabilities or mental disorders. Those with mental retardation, cerebral dysfunction or psychosis in addition to ADHD have a poor prognosis. A high percent become psychotic, and some end up in institutions. Although there seems to be an increased rate of delinquency and lawbreaking in prior hyperactives compared to controls, these differences disappear when the results are analyzed. The initially impressive differences between cases and controls are probably consequences of bias. Cases with a childhood history of conduct and educational problems have been compared to controls without a history of such problems. Thus, the reported differences are not related to ADHD. Hyperactives without conduct problems do not have an increased frequency of delinquency. Problems of conduct, CD and Antisocial Personality Disorder, but not psychosis characterize cases with a childhood history of conduct problems (with or without ADHD). In subjects with ADHD as well as conduct problems in childhood, conduct problems and not ADHD predict the prognosis, which is worse than for those with CD without ADHD. ADHD combined with delinquency indicates a high rate of subsequent lawbreaking. Usually, cases have more problems than controls with alcohol and illicit drugs, but this might be the consequence of selection of cases (subjects with school and conduct problems) and controls (subjects without such problems).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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