Comparison of ADHD symptom subtypes as source-specific syndromes


Kenneth D. Gadow, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Putnam Hall, South Campus, State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8790, USA; Tel: (631) 632-8858; Fax: (631) 632-8953; Email:


Background:  This study examines differences between the three subtypes of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), inattentive (I), hyperactive-impulsive (H), and combined (C), in a heterogeneous sample of 248 boys (ages 6 to 10 years) with emotional and behavioral problems who were recruited for participation in a diagnostic study.

Method:  The boys and their mothers participated in an extensive evaluation that involved multiple assessments of cognitive, behavioral, academic, and family functioning. ADHD subtypes were defined on the basis of teacher alone, mother alone, and mother/teacher ratings of DSM-IV symptoms.

Results:  Results indicated ADHD symptom groups showed a differential pattern of impairment socially (H,C>I) and cognitively (I,C>H). The C and H groups were the most and least impaired overall, respectively, and all subtypes were differentiated from the nonADHD clinical control or NONE (N) group in a manner consistent with the primary findings. External validation of group differences was limited, and there were marked inconsistencies in the pattern of findings depending on how groups were defined. For the most part, although the mother/teacher grouping strategy (compared with either alone) captured a greater diversity of differences between subtypes, it also obscured some.

Conclusions:  Observed findings are consistent with the notion that mothers and teachers interpret symptom statements in terms of behaviors that are most relevant for their daily concerns.