Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 787–797 | Cite as

Does Childhood Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Predict Levels of Depressive Symptoms during Emerging Adulthood?

  • Michael C. MeinzerEmail author
  • Jeremy W. Pettit
  • James G. Waxmonsky
  • Elizabeth Gnagy
  • Brooke S. G. Molina
  • William E. Pelham


Little is known about the development and course of depressive symptoms through emerging adulthood among individuals with a childhood history of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The aim of this study was to examine if a history of ADHD in childhood significantly predicted depressive symptoms during emerging adulthood (i.e., ages 18–25 years), including the initial level of depressive symptoms, continued levels of depressive symptoms at each age year, and the rate of change in depressive symptoms over time. 394 participants (205 with ADHD and 189 without ADHD; 348 males and 46 females) drawn from the Pittsburgh ADHD Longitudinal Study (PALS) completed annual self-ratings of depressive symptoms between the ages of 18 and 25 years. Childhood history of ADHD significantly predicted a higher initial level of depressive symptoms at age 18, and higher levels of depressive symptoms at every age year during emerging adulthood. ADHD did not significantly predict the rate of change in depressive symptoms from age 18 to age 25. Childhood history of ADHD remained a significant predictor of initial level of depressive symptoms at age 18 after controlling for comorbid psychiatric diagnoses, but not after controlling for concurrent ADHD symptoms and psychosocial impairment. Participants with childhood histories of ADHD experienced significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms than non-ADHD comparison participants by age 18 and continued to experience higher, although not increasing, levels of depressive symptoms through emerging adulthood. Clinical implications and directions for future research are discussed.


ADHD Depression Emerging adulthood Longitudinal outcome 



This research was principally supported by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (AA011873 and AA00202) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA12414), awarded to Drs. Brooke Molina and William Pelham, funded the Pittsburgh ADHD Longitudinal Study, which was the data source for this project. Additional funding was provided by AA12342, AA00202, MH50467, MH12010, ESO5015, DA016631, MH065899, KAI-118-S1, DA85553, MH077676, MH069614, MH62946, MH065899, MH53554, MH069434, MH099030, IES LO3000665A, IESR324B060045, & NS39087.

In the past three years, Dr. James Waxmonsky served on the advisory panel for Noven Pharmaceuticals and the speaker’s board for Quintiles and received research funding from Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Additionally, Drs. Waxmonsky and Pelham received research funding from Noven Pharmaceuticals.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael C. Meinzer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jeremy W. Pettit
    • 1
  • James G. Waxmonsky
    • 3
  • Elizabeth Gnagy
    • 1
  • Brooke S. G. Molina
    • 2
  • William E. Pelham
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.University of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Pennsylvania State University Milton S. Hershey Medical CenterPennsylvaniaUSA

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