Neurodevelopmental disorders: what happens when children grow up and why?


  • Prof Anita Thapar

    Cardiff University

  • Prof George Davey Smith

    University of Bristol

  • Prof Kate Tilling

    University of Bristol

  • Dr Evie Stergiakouli

    University of Bristol

Project summary

Neurodevelopmental disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affect at least 1 in 10 children. The disorders begin in early life and until recently most children were thought to grow out of their problems. However, we now know that the problems are not confined to childhood, although not much is known about how these problems present in adults.

Our study aims to find out what is ‘normal’ or typical. For the first time a large population of about 8,000 people, who have been studied from the time they were in the womb, will be assessed on neurodevelopmental measures in adult life at age 26 years. We will describe the neurodevelopmental problems at this age, find out how they are linked to profiles from childhood and adolescence and work with populations in other countries to ensure our findings are robust. We will also test the extent to which early life experiences (in the womb and the early years) make a difference to  neurodevelopmental health up until early adulthood. We will also include the contribution of genes.

The research covers international populations, which will strengthen the findings.