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"With 30 percent of adults with ADD/ADHD reporting childhood abuse, it is important that health professionals working with children with these disorders screen them for physical abuse," says Angela Valeo. (Credit: Andy Schultz/Flickr)

attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Abused kids face higher risk of ADHD as adults

Thirty percent of adults with attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) report they were physically abused before they turned 18.

This compares to seven percent of adults without ADD/ADHD who were physically abused before 18, new research shows.


“This strong association between abuse and ADD/ADHD was not explained by differences in demographic characteristics or other early adversities experienced by those who had been abused,” says lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, professor of social work at the University of Toronto.

“Even after adjusting for different factors, those who reported being physically abused before age 18 had seven times the odds of ADD/ADHD.”

For the study, published online in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, and Trauma, investigators examined a representative sample of 13,054 adults aged 18 and over in the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey including 1,020 respondents who reported childhood physical abuse and 64 respondents who reported that they had been diagnosed by a health professional with either ADHD or ADD.

“Our data do not allow us to know the direction of the association. It is possible that the behaviors of children with ADD/ADHD increase parental stress and the likelihood of abuse,” says co-author Rukshan Mehta, a graduate of the  Masters of Social Work program.

“Alternatively, some new literature suggests early childhood abuse may result in and/or exacerbate the risk of ADD/ADHD.”

“This study underlines the importance of ADD/ADHD as a marker of abuse,” says co-author Angela Valeo from Ryerson University.

“With 30 percent of adults with ADD/ADHD reporting childhood abuse, it is important that health professionals working with children with these disorders screen them for physical abuse.”

Source: University of Toronto

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