ADHD Through the Years

Many parents who have children with ADHD may wonder how the symptoms will change as their child gets older. Will they get worse, diminish, or just change into something different. Researchers have studied this question and come up with a kind of roadmap for how ADHD symptoms are likely to change, on average, with age.


Preschoolers with ADHD may exhibit a greater than normal amount of hyperactivity and impulsivity, and may also be more aggressive in their behavior toward other children. Efforts to discipline or teach them different behaviors through rewards and punishments may not be effective. These children may also be inattentive and have trouble learning social skills. For the majority of preschoolers with ADHD, the hyperactivity and inattentiveness will slowly improve with age.

Middle Childhood

By the age of 10, many children with ADHD have probably already been diagnosed. There are two primary ways it may manifest. There may inattentiveness without the hyperactivity and impulsiveness. In this case, the main difficulty is with executive functioning skills. Within the school environment, a child’s frustration may mount due to problems with learning and criticism from parents, teachers or peers. These children are at risk for developing oppositional disorder, anxiety, and depression. They may become defiant and non-compliant. They are more likely be held back a grade or be placed in a special education situation.


The symptoms of inattentiveness, impulsiveness, and overactivity are likely to continue for most children diagnosed earlier with ADHD. The extra stress of having to perform academically in secondary school can lead to more conduct disorders, risk-taking behavior and even substance abuse. This can be one of the most stressful times for parents and siblings. Teens with ADHD may also be reluctant or refuse medical treatments.


It is now understood that symptoms of ADHD can persist into adulthood. The diagnostic criteria are less certain, however, than for children. There can also be overlapping, co-morbid conditions that make such a diagnosis difficult  While symptoms may still be present, often adults with ADHD have learned various skills to help them cope at work and within their family and social relationships.

Researchers and health care professionals are continually working on tools to help parents and teachers assess whether a child has ADHD, and how their symptoms are progressing as they get older. While it may not be easy to raise a child with ADHD, having a guide about what to expect can be helpful.

How Do the Symptoms of ADHD Change as Children Get Older? – Dr. Jeffrey Halperin

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