Instability of the DSM-IV Subtypes of ADHD from preschool through elementary school

Department of Psychiatry, University of Chicago, 5841 S. Maryland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
Archives of General Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 14.48). 09/2005; 62(8):896-902. DOI: 10.1001/archpsyc.62.8.896
Source: PubMed


The DSM-IV definition of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) distinguished 3 subtypes that had not been extensively studied.
To determine whether the ADHD subtypes are stable enough over time to be valid.
Longitudinal study with a greater-than 89% retention rate in 7 assessments over 8 years.
Outpatient clinics.
Volunteer sample of 118 4- to 6-year-olds who met DSM-IV criteria for ADHD, including impairment in 2 settings in at least 1 assessment.
Meeting DSM-IV criteria for the subtypes of ADHD during years 2 through 8.
The number of children who met criteria for ADHD declined over time, but most persisted. Children who met criteria for the combined subtype (CT, n = 83) met criteria for ADHD in more subsequent assessments than children in the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive subtype (HT, n = 23). Thirty-one (37%) of 83 CT children and 6 (50%) of 12 children in the predominantly inattentive subtype (IT) met criteria for a different subtype at least twice in the next 6 assessments. Children of the HT subtype were even more likely to shift to a different subtype over time, with HT children who persisted in ADHD mostly shifting to CT in later assessments. The subtypes exhibited consistently different mean levels of hyperactive-impulsive symptoms during years 2 through 8 that corresponded with their initial subtype classifications, but initial subtype differences in inattention symptoms diminished in later years.
In younger children, the CT and IT may be stable enough to segregate groups for research, but they seem too unstable for use in the clinical assessment of individual children. Children rarely remain in the HT classification over time; rather, they sometimes desist from ADHD but mostly shift to CT in later years. Using continuous ratings of hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms as a diagnostic qualifier should be considered as an alternative to classifying nominal subtypes of ADHD in DSM-V.

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    • "According to the C-DISC (Shaffer et al. 2000), which was conducted by mental health graduate students under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, 50 % percent of children met DSM-IV criteria for both Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) while an additional 33 % met criteria for only ADHD. Of note, while the C-DISC was originally developed for assessing children 6 years of age and older, several studies have documented the reliability and validity of the C-DISC among children as young as four, in particular diagnosing disruptive behavior disorders (Lahey et al. 2005; Luby et al. 2002). In terms of non-DBD diagnoses, three children had a prior diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified. "
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