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Developmental trajectories of ADHD symptoms in a large population-representative longitudinal study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 March 2021

Aja Louise Murray*
Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, UK
Hildigunnur Anna Hall
Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, UK
Lydia Gabriela Speyer
Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, UK
Lara Carter
Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, UK
Daniel Mirman
Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, UK
Arthur Caye
Department of Psychiatry, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Luis Rohde
Department of Psychiatry, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Author for correspondence: Aja Louise Murray, E-mail:



Previous research has suggested that there is substantial heterogeneity in the developmental trajectories of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Sometimes, qualitative distinctions between trajectories with different ages of onset and/or patterns of remission are made; however, little is known about the predictors and broader clinical meaningfulness of these candidate ‘developmental subtypes’ of ADHD symptoms.


We applied latent class growth analysis to data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study (MCS; N = 11 316; ages 3, 5, 7, 11 and 14) to evaluate whether developmental trajectories of ADHD symptoms differing in early life predictors could be identified. Our optimal model included six trajectory groups, labelled unaffected (34.9% of the sample), mildly affected (24.1%), subclinical remitting (12.8%), pre-school onset partially remitting (14.1%), developmentally increasing (7.6%) and pre-school onset persistent (6.4%).


Factors such as gender, conduct problems, cognitive ability, maternal education, premature birth, peer problems and school readiness scores differentiated between specific ADHD symptom trajectories.


Taken together, our findings provide preliminary evidence that distinguishing different trajectories of ADHD symptoms could be clinically informative.

Original Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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