Young hyperactive girls are more likely to get hooked on to smoking, under-perform in school or jobs and gravitate towards mentally abusive relationships as adults, says a new study.
The study, conducted by researchers from the Universite de Montreal and the University College London (UCL), followed 881 Canadian girls from the ages of six to 21 years to see how hyperactive or aggressive behaviour in childhood could affect early adulthood.
The research team found that one in 10 girls monitored showed high levels of hyperactive behaviour. Another one in ten girls showed both high levels of hyperactive and physically aggressive behaviour.
"Few studies have looked at the consequences of aggressive and hyperactive behaviour in girls," said Nathalie Fontaine, UCL lead researcher.
"This study shows that hyperactivity combined with aggressive behaviour in girls as young as six years old may lead to greater problems with abusive relationships, lack of job prospects and teenage pregnancies," Fontaine said.
Girls with hyperactive behaviour, i.e. restlessness, jumping up and down, a difficulty keeping still or fidgety, while girls exhibiting physical aggression i.e. fighting, bullying, kicking, biting or hitting were found to have a high risk of developing adjustment problems in adulthood.
The study also found that hyperactive or aggressive girls were more vulnerable to grow into smoking, psychologically abusive partners and poor performance in school. What's more, females with both hyperactivity and physical aggression reported physical and psychological aggression towards their partner, along with early pregnancy and dependency on welfare.
"Our study suggests that girls with chronic hyperactivity and physical aggression in childhood should be targeted by intensive prevention programmes in elementary school, because they are more likely to have serious adjustment problems later in life," said Fontaine.
"Programmes targeting only physical aggression may be missing a significant proportion of at-risk girls. In fact, our results suggest that targeting hyperactive behaviour will include the vast majority of aggressive girls," added Fontaine.
The study is published in Archives of General Psychiatry.