ADHD is commonly assumed to affect far more boys than girls. However, diagnostic criteria for ADHD may be less able to detect attention problems among girls because some ADHD criteria reflect characteristics that are more annoyingly conspicuous and have higher population base rates among boys than girls.
To learn more about ADHD in girls, Stephen Hinshaw and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, compared the developmental course of girls diagnosed at ages 6-10 years as having ADHD with that for demographically similar girls not meeting criteria for ADHD. At a 16-year follow-up (mean age 25.6 years), the girls were assessed for ADHD and other characteristics, including Internalizing and Externalizing problems scored from self-completed ASR and parent-completed ABCL forms (Owens et al., 2017).
Internalizing and Externalizing scores from the ASR and ABCL were substantially higher for girls who continued to meet criteria for ADHD vs. girls who had not initially met criteria for ADHD. Although girls who continued to meet criteria for ADHD also obtained higher scores for many other measures of problems, the differences between these girls and other girls were larger for parents’ ABCL ratings than for any other measures. Parents’ ABCL ratings of Internalizing problems yielded effects that were also especially large. For ASR self-ratings of Internalizing problems, the scores for girls whose ADHD persisted exceeded scores for girls whose ADHD subsided by more than scores on any other measures.
Reference: Owens, E.B., Zalecki, C., Gillette, P., & Hinshaw, S.P. (2017). Girls with childhood ADHD as adults: Cross-domain outcomes by diagnostic persistence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83, 723-736.