Adults who have ADHD are much more likely to report they were sexually and physically abused before they turned 16 than their peers without ADHD, according to a new study.
Among women, 34 percent of those with ADHD reported they were sexually abused before they turned 18. In contrast, 14 percent of women without ADHD reported that they had experienced childhood sexual abuse.
Twice as many women with ADHD reported that they had experienced childhood physical abuse than women without this condition (44 percent vs 21 percent).
“These findings suggest there is a silent epidemic of abuse among people and particularly women with ADHD,” says coauthor Esme Fuller-Thomson, a professor in the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and the Faculty of Medicine.
Fuller-Thomson’s research also shows that a greater percentage of men with ADHD than men without ADHD reported that they were sexually abused (11 percent vs six percent) or physically abused (41 percent vs 31 percent) during their childhood.
Investigators examined a nationally representative sample of 12,877 women and 10,496 men in the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health.
Fuller-Thomson emphasized that the data cannot clarify the direction of the association.
“It may be that early maltreatment affects neurobiological development,” says Fuller-Thomson. “It is also possible that children with ADHD are more vulnerable to abuse.”
The results are published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect.
“The questions in the survey did not identify who was abusing the children, it could have been a family member or a non-related adult” says study coauthor Danielle Lewis, a graduate student in the social work program. “No matter who is the perpetrator, it is very important that health professionals working with children with ADHD screen them for sexual and physical abuse.”
Source: University of Toronto