Although there is substantial support for the validity of the diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), there is considerable disagreement about how to best capture developmental changes in the expression of ADHD symptomatology. This article examines the associations among the 18 individual ADHD symptoms using a novel network analysis approach, from preschool to adulthood. The 1,420 participants were grouped into four age brackets: preschool (ages 3–6, n = 109), childhood (ages 6–12, n = 548), adolescence (ages 13–17, n = 357), and young adulthood (ages 18–36, n = 406). All participants completed a multistage, multi-informant diagnostic process, and self and informant symptom ratings were obtained. Network analysis indicated ADHD symptom structure became more differentiated over development. Two symptoms, often easily distracted and difficulty sustaining attention, appeared as central, or core, symptoms across all age groups. Thus, a small number of core symptoms may warrant extra weighting in future diagnostic systems.

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Published in Clinical Psychological Science, v. 4, issue 6, p. 988-1001.

Michelle M. Martel, Cheri A. Levinson, Julia K. Langer, and Joel T. Nigg, A Network Analysis of Developmental Change in ADHD Symptom Structure from Preschool to Adulthood, Clinical Psychological Science 4(6) pp. 988-1001. Copyright © 2016 The Author(s). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702615618664

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This research was supported by NIH National Institute of Mental Health Grant R01-MH63146 and MH3759105 to Joel Nigg and 5R03 HD062599-02 and K12 DA 035150 to Michelle Martel.

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