Late-onset ADHD is an excuse you’ve been using for not paying attention to your wife for years, but it turns out it’s a real thing and it could effect your kid as they get older. Multiple studies published recently in JAMA Psychiatry suggest that many young adults develop ADHD symptoms later in life, despite not experiencing them as kids. In fact, those symptoms may not present themselves until they turn 18, which means that your catchall excuse for their behavior in college — “It’s college” — might not be so accurate.
One longitudinal study out of King’s College in London looked at 2,232 twins, who were evaluated at ages 5, 7, 10, 12 and finally 18. Surprisingly, 70 percent of subjects diagnosed with ADHD did not meet the criteria for the disorder until they were old enough to vote and smoke cigarettes (hopefully not at the same time, because ADHD). If you think it’s a twin thing, an additional study that assessed 5,249 individuals at age 11 and then again at 18 or 19 and of all the adults with ADHD, only 12 percent of them were diagnosed as children as well. That means for 88 percent of those adults, their childhood attention span may have been pretty normal.
An earlier study spanning 4 decades followed 1,037 individuals until the age of 38 and found that 90 percent of adult ADHD cases were not diagnosed as kids, but called for further research — which is exactly what these new studies provide. So, not only does your kid have a chance at developing the disorder later in life, you do too. The only difference is that for you, symptoms or irritability, disorganization and forgetfulness can just be filed under symptoms of being parent.