Adult-Onset ADHD: A Critical Analysis and Alternative Explanations

Lea E. Taylor, Elizabeth A. Kaplan-Kahn, Rachel A. Lighthall, Kevin M. Antshel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized as a neurodevelopmental disorder. However, data from several recent studies suggest that there may be adults who meet current criteria for ADHD, yet did not experience symptoms until adulthood (i.e., “adult-onset ADHD”). This systematic review evaluated and synthesized the empirical evidence on adult-onset ADHD to answer the question: Is the extant literature strong enough to evaluate adult-onset ADHD? Nine studies met strict inclusion/exclusion criteria. Results suggest that the methodologies of the extant studies were not strong enough to evaluate adult-onset ADHD. Insufficient methodologies provide presently unclear information about the nature of late-onset symptoms. These symptoms seem to exist but their source could be (1) adult-emergent symptoms that were previously surpassed due to lower environmental demands/supportive facilitators, (2) mimics that were not properly assessed, or (3) childhood-onset symptoms that were not detected earlier due to failure to come to clinical attention. Future directions, clinical recommendations, and limitations of the literature and the current review are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)635-653
Number of pages19
JournalChild Psychiatry and Human Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • ADHD
  • Adult-emergent ADHD
  • Adult-onset ADHD
  • Lifespan
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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