Financial Dependence of Young Adults with Childhood ADHD

Financial Dependence of Young Adults with Childhood ADHD

by David Rabiner, Ph.D.

Studies that have followed children with ADHD into young adulthood indicate that many struggle with interpersonal and attention difficulties in the workplace, are more more likely to get fired and/or change jobs frequently. This suggests that financial difficulties, and perhaps continued financial dependence on parents would be more common in young adults who had ADHD in childhood. Little research on this issue has been conducted, however.

A study published recently in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology [Alszuler et al. (2016). Financial dependence of young adults with childhood ADHD, 44, 1217-1229.] provides the most comprehensive look to date on the relationship between childhood ADHD and financial status in young adulthood. As one might expect, a negative relationship was uncovered.

Participants 309 individuals diagnosed with ADHD in childhood and 208 comparison individuals raised in similar neighborhoods without childhood ADHD; average age at diagnosis was 9.4 years and nearly 90% of both groups were male. At age 25, young adults and their parents were interviewed so that the financial status of these young adults could be assessed.


Compared to young adults without childhood ADHD, those with ADHD in childhood were…

– more likely to be living at home (39% vs. 27%)
– more likely to have moved back home after living independently (44% vs. 18%)
– more likely to receive some form of public assistance (11% vs. 1%)

On average, they also earned 25% less per month, experienced more money-related hassles, and had 50% less money in a savings account.

Even after controlling for educational attainment, parents’ education, IQ, and delinquent behavior, they still earned significantly less income, had less savings, and were more likely to be living at home. Project lifetime earnings for young adults who had ADHD in childhood were over $500,000 less.

An interesting finding was that differences in financial outcomes between young adults with and without ADHD during childhood were based almost exclusively on parents’ reports. When comparing the reports of the young adults themselves, few differences were found. Compared to their parents reports, young adults in the ADHD group underreported their difficulties by approximately 25-30%; these discrepancies were not evident in the reports of comparison subjects and their parents.

Summary and implications

Results highlight that relative to young adults without ADHD in childhood, young adults who had been diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to struggle financially. On average, they earned less money each month, had less savings, and were more likely to be living at home and to remain financially dependent on their families. Their lifetime earnings were projected to be substantially less. These differences largely remained even after controlling for differences in educational attainment.

While these findings appear straightforward, several questions remain. First, the authors did not report on the ADHD status of participants in young adulthhood and many would have no longer meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD. The financial outcomes for those whose ADHD persisted vs. those for whom it did not, is thus unknown. Whether ADHD in childhood portends greater financial difficulties even when it does not fully persist remains an important question to examine.

There was also no information provided on whether/how treatment(s) that youth with ADHD received may have impacted their financial outcomes. This is an important omission because the financial outcomes for young adults in the ADHD group were highly variable; for example, only a minority were living at home or were receiving public assistance, and a number had earnings above average for the comparison group. It would be interesting and important to know whether financial outcomes among young adults who had been diagnosed with ADHD depended on treatment(s) they had, or had not, received.

It is also important to note that the sample was predominantly male, and one cannot assume the results would apply equally to females. Finally, financial status at 25 – a relatively young age – can certainly change over time. Following these individuals into their 30’s and beyond will thus help refine understanding of how ADHD during childhood relates to adult financial status.

These limitations not withstanding, results from this study highlight that young adults who had or continue to have ADHD may require additional assistance with money management. Parents and clinicians should be aware that young adults with ADHD may need extra support with budgeting, saving, bill paying, etc. There is also currently little (no?) research on how to prevent or improve financial difficulties among young adults with ADHD. Efforts to develop prevention strategies that focus on teaching appropriate money management skills to young adults with ADHD would thus be helpful to pursue.


David Rabiner, Ph.D.
Research Professor
Dept. of Psychology & Neuroscience
Duke University
Durham, NC 27708

(c) 2015 David Rabiner, Ph.D.

This article was originally published in Attention Research Update, an online newsletter written by Dr. David Rabiner of Duke University that helps parents, professionals, and educators keep up with new research on ADHD and related areas.  You can sign up for a complementary subscription at

Reprinted with permission.

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