PhD position to understand potential reasons for delayed ADHD diagnosis in females

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common and highly impairing neurodevelopmental disorder that is associated with life-long adverse social, educational, and health outcomes. Diagnosis of ADHD is often delayed and may even be missed entirely in many females. Even when recognised, treatment with ADHD medication can be further delayed or not provided for females with ADHD. This delay and inequality in access to clinical care is likely to have a negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of affected individuals and increase the costs of social and healthcare services. Delayed recognition of ADHD could be due to compensatory factors or coping strategies that mask ADHD difficulties and may be more common in females than males. These could include learning adaptive skills that improve difficulties associated with ADHD or strategies used to manage emotional dysregulation and social consequences such as peer rejection. This is an important area of research that has received little attention in ADHD to date.

The aim of this PhD project is to increase knowledge of ADHD in females, including potential reasons for delayed diagnosis. The specific aims are to:

1. Identify potential compensatory factors and negative coping strategies associated with delayed ADHD diagnosis, particularly in females.

2. Determine the impact of ADHD diagnosis timing on impairments in social and educational functioning.

3. Test the association between common and rare neurodevelopmental genetic risks and use of coping strategies and protective factors in individuals with and without ADHD.

The project will draw on existing childhood general population data from the UK and Sweden: the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) and the Child and Adolescent Twin Study in Sweden (CATSS). These 2 complementary datasets include extensive measures across childhood and adolescence, including parent, teacher and self-reported mental health problems, social and educational outcomes, and functional impairment, as well as genetic data.

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