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      Predicting ADHD by Assessment of Rutter’s Indicators of Adversity in Infancy


      BACKGROUND: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder with early onset. ADHD is associated with significant morbidity and mortality, partly due to delayed diagnosis. Identification of children at high risk for developing ADHD could lead to earlier diagnosis and potentially change the negative trajectory of the illness for the better. Since early psychosocial adversity is considered to be a likely etiological risk factor for ADHD, markers of this construct may be useful for early identification of children at high risk. Therefore, we sought to investigate whether Rutter's indicators of adversity (low social class, severe marital discord, large family size, paternal criminality, maternal mental disorder, and placement in out-of-home care) assessed in infancy could serve as early predictors for the development of ADHD.

      METHODS AND FINDINGS: Using data from the Danish nationwide population-based registers, we established a cohort consisting of all 994,407 children born in Denmark between January 1st 1993 and December 31st 2011 and extracted dichotomous values for the six Rutter's indicators of adversity at age 0-12 months (infancy) for each cohort member. The cohort members were followed from their second birthday and the association between the sum of Rutter's indicators of adversity (RIA-score) in infancy and subsequent development of ADHD was estimated by means of Cox regression. Also, the number needed to screen (NNS) to detect one case of ADHD based on the RIA-scores in infancy was calculated. During follow-up (9.6 million person-years), 15,857 males and 5,663 females from the cohort developed ADHD. For both males and females, there was a marked dose-response relationship between RIA-scores assessed in infancy and the risk for developing ADHD. The hazard ratios for ADHD were 11.0 (95%CI: 8.2-14.7) and 11.4 (95%CI: 7.1-18.3) respectively, for males and females with RIA-scores of 5-6, compared to males and females with RIA-scores of 0. Among males with RIA-scores of 5-6, 37.6% (95%CI: 27.0-50.7) had been diagnosed with ADHD prior to the age of 20, corresponding to a NNS of 3.0 (95%CI: 2.2-4.0).

      CONCLUSIONS: Rutter's indicators of adversity assessed in infancy strongly predicted ADHD. This knowledge may be important for early identification of ADHD.

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