“Late-onset” ADHD symptoms in young adulthood: is this the same as child-onset ADHD?

Lucy Riglin, Robyn E Wootton, Lucy Livingston , Jessica Agnew-Blais , Louise Arseneault, Rachel Blakey, Sharifa Shameem Syed Salim Agha, Kate Langley, Stephan Collishaw, Michael C O'Donovan, George Davey Smith, Evangelia Stergiakouli , Kate M Tilling, Anita Thapar*

*Corresponding author for this work

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

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Objective: We investigated whether “late-onset” ADHD that emerges in adolescence/adulthood is similar in risk factor profile to: 1) child-onset ADHD, but emerges later because of scaffolding/compensation from childhood resources; and 2) depression, because it typically onsets in adolescence/adulthood and shows symptom and genetic overlaps with ADHD.

Methods: We examined associations between late-onset ADHD and ADHD risk factors, cognitive tasks, childhood resources and depression risk factors in a population-based cohort follow-up to age 25 years (N=4224-9764).

Results: Parent-rated late-onset ADHD was like child-onset persistent ADHD in associations with ADHD polygenic risk scores and cognitive task performance, although self-rated late-onset ADHD was not. Late-onset ADHD was associated with higher levels of childhood resources than child-onset ADHD and did not show strong evidence of association with depression risk factors. Conclusions: Late-onset ADHD shares characteristics with child-onset ADHD when parent-rated, but differences for self-reports require investigation. Childhood resources may delay the onset of ADHD.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Attention Disorders
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 15 Nov 2021


  • ADHD
  • late-onset
  • longitudinal
  • genetic
  • scaffolding
  • compensation


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