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Modifiers of Long-Term School Outcomes for Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Does Treatment with Stimulant Medication Make a Difference? Results from a Population-Based Study

Barbaresi, William J. MD*; Katusic, Slavica K. MD; Colligan, Robert C. PhD; Weaver, Amy L. MS§; Jacobsen, Steven J. MD PhD

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: August 2007 - Volume 28 - Issue 4 - p 274-287
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e3180cabc28
Original Article

Objective: The purpose of this study was to describe the significance of potential modifiers of long-term school outcomes among children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), including treatment with stimulant medication.

Methods: Subjects included 370 children with research-identified AD/HD from a 1976–1982 population-based birth cohort (N = 5718). In a companion study, the complete school record for each subject was reviewed to obtain information on reading achievement, absenteeism, grade retention, and school dropout. Data on type of stimulant, dose, age at initiation of treatment, and start/stop dates were collected from medical and school records, available for all subjects.

Results: Treatment with stimulants was associated with decreased rates of absenteeism; longer duration of treatment was also associated with decreased absenteeism rates. There was a modest positive correlation (r = .15, p = .012) between average daily stimulant dose and last reading score. Cases treated with stimulants were 1.8 times less likely to subsequently be retained a grade (95% confidence interval: 1.01–3.2; p = .047). The proportion of school dropout was similar between treated and not treated cases (22.2% vs 25.8%, p = .54). Other potential modifiers of school outcomes (sociodemographic risk factors, presence of comorbid learning or psychiatric disorders, and receipt of special educational services) were also examined and found to be associated with poorer outcomes.

Conclusions: In this birth cohort, stimulant treatment of children with AD/HD was associated with improved reading achievement, decreased school absenteeism, and decreased grade retention. This study provides support for efforts to ensure that children with AD/HD receive appropriate long-term medical treatment.

From the *Department of *Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics; †Department of Health Sciences Research, Division of Clinical Epidemiology; ‡Department of Psychiatry &Psychology; §Department of Health Sciences Research, Division of Biostatistics, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN; ¶Department of Research and Evaluation, Southern California Permanente Medical Group, Pasadena, CA.

Received September 2006; accepted May 2007.

The project was supported by research grants from the Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health (HD29745 and AR30582) and by an investigator-initiated research grant from McNeil Consumer and Specialty Pharmaceuticals.

Address for reprints: William J. Barbaresi, M.D., Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, 200 First Street S.W., Rochester, MN 55905; e-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.