Further Evidence for the Role of Pregnancy-induced Hypertension and Other Early Life Influences in the Development of ADHD: Results from the IDEFICS Study

Hermann Pohlabeln*, Stefan Rach, Stefaan De Henauw, Gabriele Eiben, Wencke Gwozdz, Charalampos Hadjigeorgiou, Dénes Molnar, Luis A. Moreno, Paola Russo, Toomas Veidebaum, Iris Pigeot, On behalf of the IDEFICS consortium

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The aim of this study is to investigate whether in addition to established early risk factors other, less studied pre-, peri-, and postnatal influences, like gestational hypertension or neonatal respiratory disorders and infections, may increase a child’s risk of developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD). In the IDEFICS study more than 18,000 children, aged 2–11.9 years, underwent extensive medical examinations supplemented by parental questionnaires on pregnancy and early childhood. The present analyses are restricted to children whose parents also completed a supplementary medical questionnaire (n = 15,577), including the question whether or not the child was ever diagnosed with ADHD. Multilevel multivariable logistic regression was used to assess the association between early life influences and the risk of ADHD. Our study confirms the well-known association between maternal smoking during pregnancy and a child’s risk of ADHD. In addition, our study showed that children born to mothers younger than 20 years old were 3–4 times more likely to develop ADHD as compared to children born to mothers aged 25 years and older. Moreover, we found that children whose mothers suffered from pregnancy-induced hypertension had an approximately twofold risk of ADHD (OR 1.95; 95% CI 1.09–3.48). This also holds true for infections during the first 4 weeks after birth (OR 2.06; 95% CI 1.05–4.04). In addition, although not statistically significant, we observed a noticeable elevated risk estimate for neonatal respiratory disorders (OR 1.76; 95% CI 0.91–3.41). Hence, we recommend that these less often studied pre-, peri, and postnatal influences should get more attention when considering early indicators or predictors for ADHD in children. However, special study designs such as genetically sensitive designs may be needed to derive causal conclusions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)957-967
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders
  • European children cohort
  • Gestational hypertension
  • Maternal age
  • Neonatal respiratory disorders
  • Smoking

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