A recent study from the United States has found that college attendance may reduce the progression of impairment in adolescents with ADHD transitioning out of high school.
Using eight waves of data from the prospective 16-year Multimodal Treatment of ADHD (MTA) study, researchers examined whether the trajectory of impairments* experienced by adolescents with ADHD leaving high school was affected by parental involvement in adolescence and support during young adulthood,† as well as subsequent attendance at college. Data from 2-year (median age 10.4 years) and 16-year (median age 25.0 years) MTA assessments‡ for 548 adolescents with ADHD and 258 age- and sex-matched controls from the same schools were analysed.
Results indicated that, compared with their peers without ADHD, impairments worsened over time both before and after transition from high school for adolescents with ADHD. Involved parenting during adolescence (for instance, regular conversations, support with homework and participation in children’s school and extracurricular activities) reduced the overall level of impairment (B=-0.13, 95% confidence interval [CI] -0.24 to -0.02; p<0.05), although no such effect was found for parent support (for instance, consulting on important decisions, guidance on complex problem solving, and support for coping with significant stressors).
For adolescents with ADHD who attended college, impairments stabilised after leaving high school, regardless of parental involvement (B=-0.03, 95% CI -0.05 to -0.01; p<0.05). Moreover, young people with a history of both involved parenting and college attendance were the least impaired on the whole (non-significant for those with ADHD).
Interpretation of these results should bear in mind that this study did not include adolescents with ADHD inattentive subtypes, and furthermore did not measure how specific aspects of impairments (e.g. social, behavioural, academic) change over time. Nevertheless, researchers concluded that these results indicate that regardless of parental involvement during adolescence, the developmental course of impairment stabilises for young adults with ADHD who go on to college.
*Measured via parent-reported Columbia Impairment Rating Scale (<18 years) and Impairment Rating Scale (>18 years)
†Measured via parent-completed Alabama Parenting Questionnaire (<18 years); Network of Relationships Inventory
‡In the MTA study, participant assessments took place at baseline (prior to treatment randomisation), at 3 months, 9 months and 14 months (conclusion of treatment phase), and again at 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16 years after treatment randomisation
Howard AL, Strickland NJ, Murray DW, et al. Progression of impairment in adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder through the transition out of high school: contributions of parent involvement and college attendance. J Abnorm Psychol 2016; 125: 233-247.