Media Releases

Thirty per cent of adults with attention deficit disorder report childhood physical abuse

March 5, 2014

TORONTO, ON — Thir­ty per­cent of adults with Atten­tion Deficit Dis­or­der or Atten­tion Deficit Hyper­ac­tiv­i­ty Dis­or­der (ADD/ADHD) report they were phys­i­cal­ly abused before they turned 18. This com­pares to sev­en per cent of those with­out ADD/ADHD who were phys­i­cal­ly abused before 18. The results were in a study pub­lished in this week’s online Jour­nal of Aggres­sion, Mal­treat­ment, and Trau­ma.

“This strong asso­ci­a­tion between abuse and ADD/ADHD was not explained by dif­fer­ences in demo­graph­ic char­ac­ter­is­tics or oth­er ear­ly adver­si­ties expe­ri­enced by those who had been abused,” says lead author Esme Fuller-Thom­son, Pro­fes­sor and San­dra Rot­man Chair at Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to’s Fac­tor-Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work. “Even after adjust­ing for dif­fer­ent fac­tors, those who report­ed being phys­i­cal­ly abused before age 18 had sev­en times the odds of ADD/ADHD.”

Inves­ti­ga­tors exam­ined a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of 13,054 adults aged 18 and over in the 2005 Cana­di­an Com­mu­ni­ty Health Sur­vey includ­ing 1,020 respon­dents who report­ed child­hood phys­i­cal abuse and 64 respon­dents who report­ed that they had been diag­nosed by a health pro­fes­sion­al with either ADHD or ADD.

“Our data do not allow us to know the direc­tion of the asso­ci­a­tion. It is pos­si­ble that the behav­iors of chil­dren with ADD/ADHD increase parental stress and the like­li­hood of abuse,” says co-author Ruk­shan Mehta, a grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Mas­ter of Social Work pro­gram. “Alter­na­tive­ly, some new lit­er­a­ture sug­gests ear­ly child­hood abuse may result in and/or exac­er­bate the risk of ADD/ADHD.”

Accord­ing to co-author Angela Valeo from Ryer­son Uni­ver­si­ty, “This study under­lines the impor­tance of ADD/ADHD as a mark­er of abuse. With 30 per cent of adults with ADD/ADHD report­ing child­hood abuse, it is impor­tant that health pro­fes­sion­als work­ing with chil­dren with these dis­or­ders screen them for phys­i­cal abuse.”


For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact:

Esme Fuller-Thom­son
Pro­fes­sor and San­dra Rot­man Chair
Fac­tor-Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Tel: 416–209-3231

Michael Kennedy
Media Rela­tions Offi­cer
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Tel: 416–946-5025