Dr. James T. McCracken, professor of child psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Healthline it is currently difficult to diagnose ADHD in the very young.
“It is probably and most difficult to make a diagnosis of ADHD in preschoolers,” McCracken said. “A lot of the behaviors that make up the core symptoms, the diagnostic features of the disorder, overlap quite a bit with the normal range of behavior.”
McCracken says it is important people understand that ADHD has been found on every continent in the world. This has led experts to believe the disorder is not caused by bad environments, or through exposure to social media or television.
“It really is a biomedical condition that at many times does require medical treatment. But fortunately, we can help the majority of children and adults with it be much more functional and help them reduce their challenges significantly,” he said.
The researchers from the Kennedy Krieger Institute plan to follow the children from the study through their childhood years into adolescence to better understand the disorder.
“Our hope is that by following these children from early on in life, we will be able to determine which early brain and behavioral signs are most associated with later difficulties, or even better, which aspects of early development can predict better outcome and recovery from the condition," said Mahone.
ADHD can impact quality of life differently at different ages. Although many parents focus on the academic impacts of behavioral difficulties from ADHD, Sarver says there are a number of other important factors to consider that extend well beyond school years.
“ADHD can affect health risks such as accident injuries in young children, social and peer relationships as they get older, family and sibling relationships, risk-taking behaviors and the negative consequences that may be experienced, for example poor driving and accidents, sexual outcomes or early parenthood, and greater risk of substance abuse,” Sarver said. “In adults, ADHD can affect job performance, finance management, marital discord and risk of divorce.”
Although much is known about the functional consequences of ADHD, there is still more to learn about the biological factors that contribute to the disorder.
Mahone is hopeful the study will assist in reducing the negative impacts of ADHD.