A large body of research has established associations between ADHD and depressive symptoms; however, reasons for their co-occurrence are largely understudied. This study tested a theoretical model in which attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms were hypothesized to associate with depressive symptoms via parental support. Undergraduate students completed self-report measures for this cross sectional study (n = 350; mean age = 19.29; SD = 1.95; 72.3 % female). Significant correlations were found between ADHD symptoms, depressive symptoms, maternal support, and paternal support. Structural equation modeling goodness of fit statistics indicated that a model of partial indirect effects provided a good fit to the data, with maternal support and paternal support partially explaining the covariation between ADHD symptoms and depressive symptoms. College students who experience symptoms of ADHD also tend to experience symptoms of depression, and the association between ADHD symptoms and depression is explained in part by perceived support from parents. Clinical implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
When participants were dichotomized into ADHD vs. non ADHD groups based on clinical cut-offs, t-tests revealed those in the ADHD group had significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms and significantly lower levels of maternal and paternal support. Similarly, when participants were dichotomized into depressed vs. non depressed groups, t-tests revealed those in the depressed group had significantly higher levels of ADHD symptoms and significantly lower levels of maternal and paternal support.
Measurement model for maternal and paternal variables yielded a good fit to the data when unique variances for corresponding maternal and paternal support subscales were correlated. Model fit indices include χ 2 = 1.18, p = .95; RMSEA <0.001; PCLOSE =0.99; CFI =1.00; TLI =1.01; SRMR =0.01.
Adler, L. A., Spencer, T., Faraone, S. V., Kessler, R. C., Howes, M. J., Biederman, J., & Secnik, K. (2006). Validity of pilot adult ADHD self- report scale (ASRS) to rate adult ADHD symptoms. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, 18(3), 145–148.
Anastopoulos, A. D., Smith, T. F., Garrett, M. E., Morrissey-Kane, E., Schatz, N. K., Sommer, J. L., & Ashley-Koch, A. (2011). Self-regulation of emotion, functional impairment, and comorbidity among childrenwith AD/HD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 15(7), 583–592. doi:10.1177/1087054710370567.
Arbuckle, J., & Wothke, W. (1999). AMOS 4.0 user’s guide. Chicago: ClearWaters Corporation.
Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood. A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55(5), 469–480.
Association, A. P. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Bagwell, C. L., Molina, B. S. G., Pelham, W. E., & Hoza, B. (2001). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and problems in peer relations: predictions from childhood to adolescence. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(11), 1285–1292. doi:10.1097/00004583-200111000-00008.
Barkley, R. A. (2006). ADHD in adults. In R. A. Barkley (Ed.), Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder a handbook for diagnosis and treatment (3rd ed., pp. 248–296). New York: Guilford Press.
Barkley, R. A., Fischer, M., Edelbrock, C., & Smallish, L. (1991). The adolescent outcome of hyperactive children diagnosed by research criteria–III. Mother-child interactions, family conflicts and maternal psychopathology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 32(2), 233–255.
Barkley, R. A., Murphy, K., & Kwasnik, D. (1996). Psychological adjustment and adaptive impairments in young adults with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 1(1), 41–54. doi:10.1177/108705479600100104.
Bentler, P. M. (1990). Comparative fit indexes in structural models. Psychological Bulletin, 107(2), 238–246. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.107.2.238.
Biederman, J., Faraone, S., Mick, E., & Lelon, E. (1995). Psychiatric comorbidity among referred juveniles with major depression: fact or artifact? Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 34(5), 579–590.
Bogdan, R., & Pizzagalli, D. A. (2009). The heritability of hedonic capacity and perceived stress: a twin study evaluation of candidate depressive phenotypes. Psychological Medicine, 39(2), 211–218. doi:10.1017/S0033291708003619.
Bolen, K. A., & Long, J. S. (1993). Testing structural equation models. Newbury Park: Sage.
Browne, M. W., & Cudeck, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In K. A. Bolen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models (pp. 136–162). Beverly Hills: Sage.
Cunningham, C. E., & Barkley, R. A. (1979). The interactions of normal and hyperactive children with their mothers in free play and structured tasks. Child Development, 50(1), 217–224.
Enders, C. K. (2010). Applied missing data analysis. New York: The Guilford Press.
Flory, K., Molina, B. S., Pelham, W. E., Jr., Gnagy, E., & Smith, B. (2006). Childhood ADHD predicts risky sexual behavior in young adulthood. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 35(4), 571–577. doi:10.1207/s15374424jccp3504_8.
Frazier, T. W., Youngstrom, E. A., Glutting, J. J., & Watkins, M. W. (2007). ADHD and achievement: meta-analysis of the child, adolescent, and adult literatures and a concomitant study with college students. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 40(1), 49–65.
Galambos, N. L., Barker, E. T., & Krahn, H. J. (2006). Depression, self-esteem, and anger in emerging adulthood: seven-year trajectories. Developmental Psychology, 42(2), 350–365.
Garnier-Dykstra, L. M., Pinchevsky, G. M., Caldeira, K. M., Vincent, K. B., & Arria, A. M. (2010). Self-reported adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms among college students. Journal of American College Health, 59(2), 133–136.
Graham, J. W. (2009). Missing data analysis: making it work in the real world. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 549–576. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.58.110405.085530.
Grolnick, W. S., Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (1991). Inner resources for school-achievement - motivational mediators of children's perceptions of their parents. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83(4), 508–517. doi:10.1037/0022-06126.96.36.1998.
Hechtman, L. (2006). Long-term treatment of children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Current Psychiatry Reports, 8(5), 398–408.
Holahan, C. J., Valentiner, D. P., & Moos, R. H. (1995). Parental support, coping strategies, and psychological adjustment: an integrative model with late adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 24(6), 633–648. doi:10.1007/Bf01536948.
Hooper, D., Coughlan, J., & Mullen, M. R. (2008). Structural equation modelling: guidelines for determining model fit. Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods, 6(1), 53–60.
Houltberg, B. J., Henry, C. S., Merten, M. J., & Robinson, L. C. (2011). Adolescents’ perceptions of family connectedness, intrinsic religiosity, and depressed mood. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20(1), 111–119. doi:10.1007/s10826-010-9384-5.
Hoza, B., Pelham, W. E., Waschbusch, D. A., Kipp, H., & Owens, J. S. (2001). Academic task persistence of normally achieving ADHD and control boys: performance, self-evaluations, and attributions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69(2), 271–283.
Hu, L. T., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling a Multidisciplinary Journal, 6(1), 1–55. doi:10.1080/10705519909540118.
Humphreys, K. L., Katz, S. J., Lee, S. S., Hammen, C., Brennan, P. A., & Najman, J. M. (2013). The association of ADHD and depression: mediation by peer problems and parent–child difficulties in two complementary samples. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122(3), 854–867. doi:10.1037/a0033895.
Jensen, P. S., Hinshaw, S. P., Kraemer, H. C., Lenora, N., Newcorn, J. H., Abikoff, H. B., & Vitiello, B. (2001). ADHD comorbidity findings from the MTA study: comparing comorbid subgroups. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(2), 147–158.
Johnston, C. (1996). Parent characteristics and parent–child interactions in families of nonproblem children and ADHD children with higher and lower levels of oppositional-defiant behavior. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 24(1), 85–104.
Joiner, T. E., Walker, R. L., Pettit, J. W., Perez, M., & Cukrowicz, K. C. (2005). Evidenced-based assessment of depression in adults. Psychological Assessment, 17(3), 267–277.
Kessler, R. C., Adler, L., Ames, M., Demler, O., Faraone, S., Hiripi, E., & Walters, E. E. (2005). The world health organization adult ADHD self-report scale (ASRS): a short screening scale for use in the general population. Psychological Medicine, 35(2), 245–256.
Kins, E., Beyers, W., Soenens, B., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2009). Patterns of home leaving and subjective well-being in emerging adulthood: the role of motivational processes and parental autonomy support. Developmental Psychology, 45(5), 1416–1429. doi:10.1037/A0015580.
Klassen, L. J., Katzman, M. A., & Chokka, P. (2010). Adult ADHD and its comorbidities, with a focus on bipolar disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 124(1–2), 1–8.
Kuriyan, A. B., Pelham, W. E., Jr., Molina, B. S., Waschbusch, D. A., Gnagy, E. M., Sibley, M. H., & Kent, K. M. (2013). Young adult educational and vocational outcomes of children diagnosed with ADHD. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 41(1), 27–41. doi:10.1007/s10802-012-9658-z.
Lange, G., Sheerin, D., Carr, A., Dooley, B., Barton, V., Marshall, D., & Doyle, M. (2005). Family factors associated with attention deficit hyoeractivity disorder and emotional disorders in children. Journal of Family Therapy, 37, 76–96.
MacKinnon, D. P. (2008). Introduction to statistical mediation analysis (Multivariate Application Series). New York: Taylor Francis.
Meinzer, M. C., Pettit, J. W., Leventhal, A. M., & Hill, R. M. (2012). Explaining the covariance between attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms and depressive symptoms: the role of hedonic responsivity. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68(10), 1111–1121. doi:10.1002/jclp.21884.
Meinzer, M. C., Lewinsohn, P. M., Pettit, J. W., Seeley, J. R., Gau, J., Chronis-Tuscano, A., & Waxmonsky, J. G. (2013). Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder in adolescence predicts onset of major depressive disorder through early adulthood. Depression and Anxiety, 30(6), 543–553. doi:10.1002/da.22082.
Milberger, S., Biederman, J., Faraone, S. V., Murphy, J., & Tsuang, M. T. (1995). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and comorbid disorders: issues of overlapping symptoms. American Journal of Psychiatry, 152(12), 1793–1799.
Mounts, N. S., Valentiner, D. P., Anderson, K. L., & Boswell, M. K. (2006). Shyness, sociability, and parental support for the college transition: relation to adolescents’ adjustment. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35(1), 71–80. doi:10.1007/s10964-005-9002-9.
Muthen, L. K., & Muthen, B. O. (2010). Mplus user’s guide (6th ed.). Los Angeles: Muthén & Muthén.
Niemiec, C. P., Lynch, M. F., Vansteenkiste, M., Bernstein, J., Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2006). The antecedents and consequences of autonomous self-regulation for college: a self-determination theory perspective on socialization. Journal of Adolescence, 29(5), 761–775.
Norwalk, K., Norvilitis, J. M., & MacLean, M. G. (2009). ADHD symptomatology and its relationship to factors associated with college adjustment. Journal of Attention Disorders, 13(3), 251–258.
Padilla-Walker, L. M., & Nelson, L. J. (2012). Black Hawk down? Establishing helicopter parenting as a distinct construct from other forms of parental control during emerging adulthood. Journal of Adolescence, 35(5), 1177–1190. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2012.03.007.
Pettit, J. W., Roberts, R. E., Lewinsohn, P. M., Seeley, J. R., & Yaroslavsky, I. (2011). Developmental relations between perceived social support and depressive symptoms through emerging adulthood: blood is thicker than water. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(1), 127–136. doi:10.1037/A0022320.
Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: a self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1(3), 385–401.
Ridner, S. L., Staten, R. R., & Danner, F. W. (2005). Smoking and depresive symptoms in a college population. Journal of School Nursing, 21, 229–235. doi:10.1177/10598405050210040801.
Robbins, R. R. (1994). An assessment of perceptions of parental autonomy, support, and control: Child and parent correlates. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Rochester.
Rucklidge, J., Brown, D., Crawford, S., & Kaplan, B. (2007). Attributional styles and psychosocial functioning of adults with ADHD: practice issues and gender differences. Journal of Attention Disorders, 10(3), 288–298.
Satorra, A., & Bentler, P. M. (2001). A scaled difference chi-square test statistic for moment structure analysis. Psychometrika, 66(4), 507–514. doi:10.1007/Bf02296192.
Schafer, J. L., & Graham, J. W. (2002). Missing data: our view of the state of the art. Psychological Methods, 7(2), 147–177.
Schwartz, O. S., Dudgeon, P., Sheeber, L. B., Yap, M. B. H., Simmons, J. G., & Allen, N. B. (2012). Parental behaviors during family interactions predict changes in depression and anxiety symptoms during adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 40(1), 59–71. doi:10.1007/s10802-011-9542-2.
Seymour, K. E., Chronis-Tuscano, A., Halldorsdottir, T., Stupica, B., Owens, K., & Sacks, T. (2012). Emotion regulation mediates the relationship between ADHD and depressive symptoms in youth. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 40(4), 595–606. doi:10.1007/s10802-011-9593-4.
Seymour, K. E., Chronis-Tuscano, A., Iwamoto, D. K., Kurdziel, G., & MacPherson, L. (2014). Emotion regulation mediates the association between ADHD and depressive symptoms in a community sample of youth. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 42(4), 611–621. doi:10.1007/s10802-013-9799-8.
Shaw-Zirt, B., Popali-Lehane, L., Chaplin, W., & Bergman, A. (2005). Adjustment, social skills, and self--esteem in college students with symptoms of ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 8(3), 109–120.
Shulman, S., Kalnitzki, E., & Shahar, G. (2009). Meeting developmental challenges during emerging adulthood: the role of personality and social resources. Journal of Adolescent Research, 24(2), 242–267. doi:10.1177/0743558408329303.
Sibley, M. H., Pelham, W. E., Molina, B. S., Waschbusch, D. A., Gnagy, E. M., Babinski, D. E., & Biswas, A. (2010). Inconsistent self-report of delinquency by adolescents and young adults with ADHD. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38(5), 645–656. doi:10.1007/s10802-010-9404-3.
Stice, E., Ragan, J., & Randall, P. (2004). Prospective relations between social support and depression: differential direction of effects for parent and peer support? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 113(1), 155–159. doi:10.1037/0021-843x.113.1.155.
Storch, E. A., Bravata, E. A., Storch, J. B., Johnson, J. H., Roth, D. A., & Roberti, J. W. (2003). Psychosocial adjustment in early adulthood: the role of childhood teasing and father support. Child Study Journal, 33(3), 153–163.
Wells, V. E., Klerman, G. L., & Deykin, E. Y. (1987). The prevalence of depressive symptoms in college-students. Social Psychiatry, 22(1), 20–28. doi:10.1007/Bf00583616.
Wells, K. C., Chi, T. C., Hinshaw, S. P., Epstein, J. N., Pfiffner, L., Nebel-Schwalm, M., & Wigal, T. (2006). Treatment-related changes in objectively measured parenting behaviors in the multimodal treatment study of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74(4), 649–657.
Weyandt, L. L., & DuPaul, G. (2006). ADHD in college students. Journal of Attention Disorders, 10(1), 9–19.
Wheaton, B. (1985). Models for the stress-buffering functions of coping resources. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 26(4), 352–364. doi:10.2307/2136658.
Zaleski, E. H., Levey-Thors, C., & Schiaffino, K. M. (1998). Coping mechanisms, stress, social support, and health problems in college students. Applied Developmental Science, 2(3), 127–137.
Conflict of Interest
Michael C. Meinzer declares no conflict of interest to disclose, Ryan M. Hill declares no conflict of interest to disclose, Jeremy W. Pettit declares no conflict of interest to disclose, Kristin A. Nichols-Lopez declares no conflict of interest to disclose.
The protocol for the current study was approved by the Florida International University Institutional Review Board.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Meinzer, M.C., Hill, R.M., Pettit, J.W. et al. Parental Support Partially Accounts for the Covariation Between ADHD and Depressive Symptoms in College Students. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 37, 247–255 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10862-014-9449-7
- Parental support