Investigating the validity of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire to assess ADHD in young adulthood

Lucy Riglin, Sharifah Shameem Agha, Olga Eyre, Rhys Bevan Jones, Robyn E Wootton, Ajay K Thapar, Stephan Collishaw, Evie Stergiakouli, Kate Langley, Anita Thapar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms typically onset early and persist into adulthood for many. Robust investigation of symptom continuity and discontinuity requires repeated assessments using the same measure, but research is lacking into whether measures used to assess ADHD symptoms in childhood are also valid in adulthood. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is widely used to assess ADHD symptoms in children, but little is known about its utility in adulthood. The aim of this study was to assess the validity of the SDQ hyperactivity/ADHD subscale to distinguish between cases and non-cases of DSM-5 ADHD at age 25 years in a UK population cohort (N = 4121). ADHD diagnosis was derived using the Barkley Adult ADHD Rating Scale-IV. Analyses suggested that the self-rated SDQ ADHD subscale had high validity in distinguishing ADHD cases/non-cases in young adulthood (area under the curve=0.90, 95% CI=0.87–0.93) and indicated a lower cut-point for identifying those who may have an ADHD diagnosis in this age group compared to that currently recommended for younger ages. Findings were similar for parent-reports. Our findings suggest that the SDQ is suitable for ADHD research across different developmental periods, which will aid the robust investigation of ADHD from childhood to young adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113984
Number of pages5
JournalPsychiatry Research
Early online date4 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • SDQ
  • ADHD
  • Hyperactivity
  • ROC curve
  • Young adulthood


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