New Findings Could Help Explain Why ADHD is Often Overlooked in Girls

Posted on January 21, 2019

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The gender ration for ADHD in girls and boys is approximately 1:3 but in adults it changes to represent a more equal ratio of 1:1. This lead a team or researchers in 2017 to investigate the possible predictors that could account for this discrepancy in children and adults. What they found was that girls tended to develop ADHD at a later age as compared to boys. This finding could partially explain the difference in the ADHD ratio between children and adults.

They went about this investigation by analyzing data collected by teachers of children from ages 7 through 15. A standard scale was used to assess the symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity, but these two domains were assessed separately due to previous research indicating that they can develop at different rates.

Based on the data there were contrasting developmental profiles between girls and boys for both domains. More boys than girls were shown to present consistently high levels of both hyperactivity/impulsivity and inattention symptoms from a young age. More girls were also shown to develop high levels of these symptoms at a much later stage around after early adolescence as compared to boys. This later development could then possibly surpass the threshold to warrant an ADHD diagnosis.

The actual explanation for this gender discrepancy is unknown but it can have a great impact on diagnosis rates as current criteria for an ADHD diagnosis in children requires the presentation of symptoms before the age of 12. This would imply that a greater proportion of girls with ADHD are being underdiagnosed by clinicians as compared to boys.

The hope for this research is to direct greater attention to the phase of early adolescence as a period of risk for the onset or worsening of hyperactivity or impulsivity. Additionally, it also seeks to prompt investigations on whether removing the criteria for symptom presentation before the age of 12 would help in the identification of girls with ADHD so that early intervention can take place for them.

Category(s):Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Source material from The British Psychological Society Research Digest

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