Although attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with eating disorders (EDs), it is unclear when ED risk emerges in children with ADHD. We compared differences in body dissatisfaction and weight control behaviour in children with/without ADHD aged 12–13 years concurrently, and when aged 8–9 and 10–11 years, to determine when risk emerges. We also examined differences by ADHD medication status at each age. This study uses waves 1–5 from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (n = 2323–2972). ADHD (7.7%) was defined at age 12–13 years by both parent- and teacher-reported SDQ Hyperactivity–Inattention scores > 90th percentile, parent-reported ADHD diagnosis and/or ADHD medication treatment. Children reported body dissatisfaction and weight control behaviour at 8–9, 10–11 and 12–13 years. Children with ADHD had greater odds of body dissatisfaction at ages 8–9 and 12–13 years. Comorbidities drove this relationship at 8–9 but not at 12–13 years [adjusted odds ratio (AOR): 1.6; 95 % CI 1.1–2.4; p = 0.01]. At 12–13 years, children with ADHD had greater odds of both trying to lose and gain weight, regardless of BMI status. Comorbidities drove the risk of trying to lose weight in ADHD but not of trying to gain weight (AOR 2.3; 95% CI 1.1–4.6; p = 0.03), which is likely accounted for by ADHD medication treatment. ADHD moderately increases body dissatisfaction risk in children aged 8–9 and 12–13 years. Clinicians should monitor this and weight control behaviour throughout mid-late childhood, particularly in children with comorbid conditions and those taking ADHD medication, to reduce the likelihood of later ED onset.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder Eating disorder Body dissatisfaction Weight control Children
Adjusted odds ratio
Longitudinal Study of Australian Children
Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire
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Mr Bisset’s position is funded by a Deakin University Postgraduate Research Scholarship (2017–2018). Associate Professor Sciberras’ position is funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Early Career Fellowship in Population Health 1037159 (2012–2015) and an NHMRC Career Development Fellowship 1110688 (2016–2019). We thank all families participating in the LSAC study. This paper uses unit record data from Growing Up in Australia, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. The study is conducted in partnership between the Department of Social Services (DSS), the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The findings and views reported in this paper are those of the authors and should not be attributed to DSS, AIFS or the ABS.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of Interest:
The authors have no financial relationships or conflicts of interest relevant to this article to disclose.
This study was approved by The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) ethics committee. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants prior to inclusion in the study. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
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