The Impact of an ADHD Label on Depression and Crime in Adulthood


Thompson, Melissa & Wilkinson, Lindsey (2019). The Impact of an ADHD Label on Depression and Crime in Adulthood.


Despite recent increases in the labeling of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in the U.S., insufficient attention has been paid to the effects of this label on subsequent negative outcomes, including depression and crime. This research seeks to address this limitation by asking whether ADHD labeling, and the life course timing of the label, affects subsequent negative outcomes in adulthood. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (N=11,846), this study examines how an ADHD diagnosis (label) affects depression and crime after controlling for childhood ADHD symptomology and the life course stage in which the ADHD label is given. Access to ADHD labeling is not equally distributed across the population, and the likelihood of receiving a label is associated with characteristics that are also correlated with depressive symptoms and crime. Therefore, we incorporate propensity score modeling (PSM) techniques to better isolate any causal association between ADHD labeling and adult outcomes. Our results indicate that an ADHD label increases both depression and crime, but the timing of the labeling differently affects depression as compared to crime. Both childhood and adulthood ADHD labeling positively predict subsequent symptoms of depression, whereas only ADHD labeling in adulthood (and not childhood labeling) affects crime. Labeling impacts appear even after controlling for ADHD symptoms and accounting for the likelihood of receiving an ADHD diagnosis. This research suggests that both ADHD labeling, and the life course timing of the labeling, are important avenues to consider as interventions meant to prevent depression and crime.



Reference Type

Conference paper

Book Title

2019 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association


Thompson, Melissa
Wilkinson, Lindsey

Year Published


City of Publication

New York, NY

Reference ID