ADHD Research Results - Barkley

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Not much research has been done on adult ADHD in the past. Many was of the opinion that it can and will be outgrown in adulthood. Recently, Russel Barkley (PhD) has conduct extensive research on adult ADHD. His results were presented in a short booklet, which will be summarised here very briefly. However, we would recommend the complete book, "What the science say".

Adult ADHD

Adult ADHD differs from child ADHD predominantly in the way it is presented. Instead of a presentation of hyperactivity in children, adults will more likely present problems with inattention, self-control and time-management - typical executive control functions.

Russel Barkly has shown in his book1 that several domains of an adult's life are seriously affected by ADHD.adhd what the science says

  1. Health
    Because of the impulsive behaviour and a tendency of substance abuse associated of ADHD, adults with ADHD are more likely to experience medical and health problems due to a higher risk and lifestyle choices; e.g. increased use of healthcare. Research has also shown that tobacco use, alcohol use and drug abuse are more likely to appear.

  2. Relationships
    Due to the challenge of coping with your own ADHD as well as having an ADHD child (likely), tends to present marital problems. The research shows a higher divorce rate, poor-quality relationships and likely to be engaged in extra-marital affairs.

  3. Educational
    Adult ADHD shows a higher rate of under-performance with a higher failure rate amongst students with ADHD.

  4. Employment
    Barkley shows that adult ADHD performs significantly worse in their workplace. They change jobs more frequently, they tend to be involved in job terminations, behavior problems, disciplinary actions, disorganised, difficulty in following instructions and suffer from procrastination.

  5. Money
    ADHD also has an effect on money management. Research has shown more debt issues and non-payment defaults than non-ADHD adults.

  6. Driving ability
    For some reason, ADHD are more dangerous when driving a vehicle and take more risks. Barkley says adult ADHD overestimate their driving ability. Research has shown that they are more likely to be involved in accidents, receive speeding tickets and even suspension of drivers licences.


Russel Barkley conclude in the first chapter of this book with a compelling statement. I cite it here because there is a tendency for people to glorify ADHD as if it is a gift, or have some special traits that are even "sought after". There is a campaign by some with the slogan: "ADHD my gift"; others with "I do not suffer from ADHD" etc. Although one can understand the need for acceptance (a real telling need of probably all ADHD persons), the way to accept oneself and live with this disorder is not to glorify it, but to deal with the symptoms and make the bests of possible medication and behavioural therapy.

"The findings covered in this chapter clarify that ADHD in adults is not a fiction, myth, social construction, or mere reaction to modern hectic lifestyles or multimedia environment. Nor is ADHD merely a trivial disorder, asset, or gift to the affected patient, as some have claimed. No study, among several hundred ADHD in adults, has found the disorder to convey any particular positive traits, advantages, gifts, talents or special features beyond these seen in control groups. In contrast, all evidence shows that ADHD in adults is a serious mental disorder associated with significant life impairments."

Why this harsh conclusion of ADHD? When understanding personal detail behind Dr Russel Barkley, his position is clearer: he had a twin ADHD brother who he had lost during a motor accident. Maybe that explains his passion for the world to understand the severity of adult ADHD and to treat it accordingly.



  1. Barkley, R.A. (2010). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Adults: The latest assessment and treatment strategies. Boston, Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
  2. Barkley, R.A. Adult ADHD.
  3. Barkley, RA; Murphy, KR; Fischer, M. (2010). ADHD in Adults: What the Science Says

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