What is the research about?

The distinct developmental differences that exist between children and adolescents require ADHD treatment procedures appropriate for each age group. Treating adolescents with ADHD has unique challenges, including physical changes associated with puberty, risky behaviour, medication refusal, parent-teen conflict, increased responsibilities and decreased supervision. The purpose of this review was to compare scientific studies published over the past 13 years that examine the treatment of ADHD in adolescents.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers systematically searched online databases for scientific studies published between 1999-2012 investigating the treatment of ADHD in adolescents. The authors then pooled the results from similar studies to calculate the overall effects of each treatment. They identified 19 studies that investigated medications, 22 studies that investigated behavioural therapy, and 3 studies that investigated cognitive enhancement training in adolescents with ADHD.

What did the researchers find?

A range of medications and behaviour therapies produced positive treatment results in adolescents with ADHD. Overall, behavioural therapy produced the largest positive effects on impairments associated with ADHD (e.g. quality of life, academic productivity, family relations, social functioning and driving safety). Both medication and behavioural therapy produced similar positive effects on the direct behavioural symptoms of ADHD. Only cognitive enhancement training did not appear to be effective in treating the behavioural symptoms and impairments of ADHD.

Take home message

Adolescence is a critical time for treatment of ADHD symptoms and impairments. However, this age group has unique challenges with treatment motivation and compliance. When treating ADHD, clinicians should consider approaches that balance evidence-supported therapies as well as the individual needs of the adolescent to maximize treatment compliance and effectiveness. In other words, find out where the teen is struggling and work with them to chose a treatment strategy that addresses the issue.


The original Research Review was published in Clinical Psychology. This research was done by M. Sibley and associates and was published in Clinical Psychology in 2014.