Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder in which a child displays hyperactive, impulsive, and/or inattentive behavior that is age-inappropriate. ADHD is a result of an atypical chemical balance in the brain, which means that ADHD is a physical problem, not an emotional problem.

Outside factors, such as poor parenting, a chaotic home situation, divorce, or school stresses may affect how the symptoms light, but they do not cause ADHD.

In order to diagnose ADHD (according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision [DSM-IV-TR]), problems of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity must interfere with a child’s functioning in at least two settings (home, school, or social situations). In addition, the guidelines state that at least some symptoms must have been present before the age of 7 years.

What Causes ADHD?

By far, the most common cause of ADHD is a genetic proclivity (i.e., ADHD is often inherited). Studies suggest that the heritability rate of ADHD ranges from 0.75 to 0.91. The heritability rate indicates the percent age of ADHD in an individual resulting from genetic rather than environmental factors. Thus, a heritability rate of 0.75 means that 75% of the cause of ADHD is genetic.

However, ADHD can also be caused or exacer bated by other factors, such as preterm birth, anemia, medications for asthma, and other environmental factors.

If I Have ADHD, Will My Child Also Have it?

No, not necessarily, but the chance is definitely greater than if you did not have ADHD. For example, one third of fathers with a history of ADHD in childhood have a child with ADHD. For mothers, the percentage is somewhat lower.

Sometimes, it is a male relative in the mother’s family who has ADHD. Mothers presumably have the ADHD gene, but they may exhibit few or no symptoms. Nonetheless, these mothers can pass the ADHD gene on to their children. We are still not sure why females are less likely to have ADHD symptoms, even when it is almost certain they have one of the ADHD genes. In one study of ADHD adults and controls, 43% of children with ADHD parents met criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD, compared to 2% of children in the control group of children who had parents without ADHD.

If your first child has ADHD, the risk of your second child having ADHD is probably higher than in the general population. However, predicting the severity og ADHD or the type of ADHD that might run in a family is not possible.

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Reference: 100 Questions & Answers About Your Child’s ADHD: From Preschool to Colloege, Second Edition, Ruth D. Nass, Fern Leventhal, Jones & Bartlett Learning, Canada.


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