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Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2014 Jan;49(1):133-44. doi: 10.1007/s00127-013-0685-z. Epub 2013 Apr 20.

Another way of thinking about ADHD: the predictive role of early attachment deprivation in adolescents' level of symptoms.

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Psychological Sciences Research Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain, Belgium,



Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most frequent disorders in childhood and adolescence. Both neurocognitive and environmental factors have been related to ADHD. The current study contributes to the documentation of the predictive relation between early attachment deprivation and ADHD.


Data were collected from 641 adopted adolescents (53.2% girls) aged 11-16 years in five countries, using the DSM oriented scale for ADHD of the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) (Achenbach and Rescorla, Manual for the ASEBA school-age forms and profiles. University of Vermont, Research Center for Children, Youth and Families, Burlington, 2001). The influence of attachment deprivation on ADHD symptoms was initially tested taking into consideration several key variables that have been reported as influencing ADHD at the adoptee level (age, gender, length of time in the adoptive family, parents' educational level and marital status), and at the level of the country of origin and country of adoption (poverty, quality of health services and values). The analyses were computed using the multilevel modeling technique.


The results showed that an increase in the level of ADHD symptoms was predicted by the duration of exposure to early attachment deprivation, estimated from the age of adoption, after controlling for the influence of adoptee and country variables. The effect of the age of adoption was also demonstrated to be specific to the level of ADHD symptoms in comparison to both the externalizing and internalizing behavior scales of the CBCL.


Deprivation of stable and sensitive care in infancy may have long-lasting consequences for children's development.

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