ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is supposed to be primarily a boy’s thing, but girls with ADHD have significant problems, concludes the first major study on the subject.
A major long-term study of girls diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in elementary school has found they are at greater risk for substance abuse, emotional problems and academic difficulties in adolescence than their peers who don’t have the common neurobehavioral condition. The results, experts say, should help dispel the myth that the disorder, which affects an estimated 4.4 million American children, poses less of a risk to girls than to boys, on whom most research has focused.
Berkeley researchers followed girls, who started at ages 60 to 12, for five years. Some had been diagnosed with the disorder “characterized by pervasive inattention and impulsivity,” while others had not.
In nearly a dozen areas examined by researchers — including academic performance, prevalence of eating disorders, relationships with peers and teachers, and organizational skills — the girls with ADHD were significantly more likely to have problems than those in a matched control group who did not have the disorder.
The gap in reading and math ability had widened in five years and new concerns had emerged: About 30 percent of the girls with ADHD were at least mildly depressed, compared with 10 percent of the control group, Hinshaw said. The same percentages were seen in substance abuse.
Like boys, girls became less hyperactive as they grew older. They also responded in the same way to drugs and behavioral treatments.