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Teen ADHD May Raise Risk for Adult Problems

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Why ADHD Issues May Persist continued...

Parents whose kids are diagnosed with ADHD may have difficulty forming a close, mutual parent-child relationship, says Brook. He is citing previous research by Judith S. Brook, EdD, also of NYU and a researcher on the new study.

A close parent-child relationship may help protect the person from later problems, he says.

The study did not look at treatments given and if that affected adult issues. However, the findings strongly suggest that doctors should focus on early diagnosis and treatment of teen ADHD, Brook says, to reduce the fallout as adults.

Outlook for Teens With ADHD: Perspective

"It's not surprising at all," says Ruth Hughes, PhD, the CEO of CHADD. Other studies have also found a link between teen ADHD and adult functioning.

The impact of ADHD on later physical health issues has gotten less attention than other issues, she says, so it is a plus that the study looked at that.

"The authors really emphasize the importance of intervention early, and we absolutely agree," she says. Without early treatment, children can develop very unhealthy coping mechanisms.

For instance, she says, a teen with ADHD may say: "Why try? Everyone says I am a screw-up." However, if parents and teachers stress the value of trying, and value that over the outcome, the teen may take another view.

One limitation of the study, she says, is the lack of information on treatment, which may have found that early treatment makes a difference in later functioning.

While the findings may be discouraging, Hughes says there are always exceptions, especially if the parent-child relationship that Brook talks about is strong.

Teens with ADHD can go on to lead productive lives, she says. Her own son, who has ADHD, is a prime example. "One of the things we would never let him get away with was not trying," she says. If he tried at school, and got a C, that was viewed, she says, as ''fantastic."

"Today, he is 25, a junior in college and getting A's," she says. "He is majoring in parks and recreation, a perfect niche for him. He's not desk-bound. He loves to work with kids but didn't want to be a teacher. His classes are interactive. He is building on his strengths. He has learned he always has to try and he has to manage his ADHD."

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