Lifelong Internal and External Effects of ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) has been studied at length in children, but less so in adults. All of the existing research suggests that individuals with ADHD are more likely to have emotional, behavioral, social, and even functional difficulties than people without ADHD. It has been shown that ADHD in childhood can negatively impact academic performance, behavior, and social relationships. Even parent-child attachments can experience immense strain as a result of ADHD. But less is known about the long term effects of ADHD. Specifically, the emotional, behavioral, social, and functional effects of ADHD in adulthood have only been minimally examined and even then, only for short periods of time. To get a clearer picture of exactly how ADHD affects adults throughout their adulthood, Judith S. Brook of the Department of Psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine recently conducted an analysis of data collected over a period of 23 years.

The data was gathered from the Children and Adults in the Community study, which assessed ADHD children several times from adolescence to adulthood. Brook took that information, covering participants’ ages from childhood through their late 30s, and evaluated how ADHD had affected their internal stress, via mental health, physical health, and antisocial personality behaviors (ASPD) and their external stress via work and financial strain. After assessing data from over 500 participants, Brook found that ADHD was directly responsible for increased internal and external stress. In fact, the participants in the study had much higher rates of mental and physical impairment when compared to non-ADHD participants. Also, despite the level of income achieved by the ADHD participants, they still experienced elevated financial strain. This could be due to the impulsivity associated with ADHD, resulting in less financial planning and forecasting.

Another interesting finding was the relationship between ASPD and ADHD. In particular, Brook found that the participants with negative parental attachments in childhood had a higher risk of developing ASPD tendencies. This result emphasizes the importance of securing and strengthening a healthy parent-child bond in spite of the stress of ADHD. It is imperative for parents to find ways to help their children overcome social, emotional, and behavioral obstacles in childhood so that they can more easily transition to adulthood with ADHD. Brook added, “In addition, future research will profit from examining the mechanisms that operate between ADHD and internal and external stress.”

Brook, Judith S., et al. (2013). Adolescent ADHD and adult physical and mental health, work performance, and financial stress. Pediatrics 131.1 (2013): 5-13. Print.

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  • adam


    April 9th, 2013 at 3:48 AM

    You might think that your struggle with ADHD is over the day that you graduate from high school, but that would be far from the truth.

    I was diagnosed when I was in the fifth grade and it has been a struggle for me ever since. It is a wonder I graduated at all, and then was able to get a college to take me on, but they did. I have to say that some of the ebst help I ever received was when I actually got to college and there were al kinds of testing and classroom accomodations to help me. It was give to me freely and it made that experience so much more beneficial to me than my earlier educational years.

    I can’t say that the work world has been quite like that but at least I now know what works for me and what doesn’t and so it does make things a little easier the older I have gotten.

  • Fidel


    April 9th, 2013 at 8:38 AM

    My brother was diagnosed with ADHD in the late 70’s when hardly anyone knew about it. He was on Ritalin for most of his childhood. I find it interesting that his adulthood experiences mirrored the findings in this study. He constantly had financial troubles and most months had to call my mom and dad for rent money. He and his wife ended up filing bankruptcy. He never really had a good, solid job until he was in his late 30’s. Now, he is 45 and has had his current position since he was about 40. My parents basically laid down the law and told him they weren’t sending him anymore money. Once they did that, he seemed to turn the corner. Now, he also even has people who work under him. I am so happy for his current success, but wish he had more support when he was younger so that he could have found his way a little sooner.

  • brenda lee

    brenda lee

    April 9th, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    Making sure your ADHD kid feels loved is so important…AND SO HARD!!!!!!!!!

  • curtis


    April 9th, 2013 at 8:43 AM

    kind of hard to see why nobody thought to do this before now i mean come on really? nobody thought of seeing what happened to all these kids before now how in the world is anybody supposed to know what direction to give them when there kids if nobody is looking at how the kids that took there advice turned out. even the parents dont know the best thing to do if nobody says how other adhd kids turned out

  • eg hoffman

    eg hoffman

    April 9th, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    A kid with ADHD and ASPD? Oh, boy. Watch out, world!!

  • Giselle


    April 9th, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    I don’t have kids and it’s articles like this that make me never want to have them. Is it really worth the risk? I’m just not so sure that it is.



    April 9th, 2013 at 10:32 AM


  • Patricia


    April 9th, 2013 at 8:02 PM

    My daughter is the worse case of ADHD I have ever seen. She is 34 yr old and normal living is unattainable by her. She is a RN. Almost from birth she never slept a whole hour in 24 hours. Conflicts with me (mom) from early on. I wasn’t compassionate BC I thought she was just bad. Always into some kind of trouble. As an adult, she got pregnant, divorced, and basically lived off of us. She lies about everything. To meet her initially u would think she is fine, but she is so out of reality. She drinks excessively, gambles, and misuses her prescription drugs. She is hostile and degrading at times. Even in public, she will start a screaming match. She has been put out of our home numerous times, but truly believes its our fault. Relationships r doomed from the start. Pls if u know anyway to help her tell me.

  • Ross


    April 10th, 2013 at 4:05 AM

    Why should we let something that may influence us heavily as kids continue to rule our lives as adults?

    There are so many specialists in this area today and as an adult it is our responsibility to seek this out. We know just how much this harmed us as children, so I am determined not to carry that burden for the rest of my life. I am going to be a success with or without ADHD. I know that it will not magically go away, but there are ways to handle it that won’t make it such a huge part of my life anymore.

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