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Is ADHD Hereditary?

By: Julia Pendower - Updated: 10 Aug 2017 | comments*Discuss
Adhd Hereditary Conditions Children Adhd

When every textbook approach to addressing behavioural problems in a child fails, it may be time to stop looking at family dynamics in the search to find an explanation.

It may be possible that the bad behaviours are in fact signs of an attention deficit disorder; if this is the case, parents can be re-assured that scientists are now reasonably certain that the condition is mostly hereditary. Whilst parenting problems can exacerbate attention deficit and hyperactivity behaviours, they are not the cause of them.

In broad terms, ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a condition in which the affected person is likely to act and react to situations without considering the consequences, and this trait is referred to as hyperactivity - impulsiveness.

A person with a deficit disorder may have difficulties making or keeping friends, and may show a high degree of disorganisation and a lack of mental focus in their day-to-day life.

In a child, if these problems remain untreated they are likely to affect behaviour as well as social and academic progress at school, with lifelong consequences.

Hereditary Conditions

Ever since scientists recognised that ADHD behaviours seemed to run in families, the search has been on to find a cause for familial traits of antisocial behaviour.

For a long time, researchers thought that attention deficit disorder could be a perpetuation of the conditions associated with poor parenting skills or social deprivation within less privileged families. Clinical research studies were designed to prove the case one way or the other.

What scientists found surprised many people. The studies confirmed that ADHD ran in families who were genetically related, and that it could appear in any family, even those with highly achieving parents. When the researchers questioned and tested parents of children with the disorder, they found that many parents had also had attention deficit problems in their youth.

In other words, many parents had ADHD signs themselves, and these had passed undiagnosed in their childhoods. It was clear that this was one of a number of hereditary conditions, and the search began for a genetic cause for the disorder.

Finding the Genes

The strongest evidence for a genetic link to ADHD comes from detailed studies of twins and children who were adopted but whose 'natural' families and siblings could be traced and investigated.

A first group of studies looked at the genetics and behavioural traits of both identical and non-identical twins, whilst a second group looked at adopted children and their 'natural' genetically related siblings, as well as the siblings from the adoptive families. The results were conclusive.

Results of Studies

When researchers looked at identical twins where one twin was known to have ADHD, they found that there was a 72 to 83 per cent probability that the other twins would also have ADHD signs. This was true even where twins had been adopted and placed in different families.

However, when the researchers contrasted these findings with non-identical twins of the same sex, they found that the probability that both twins would have an attention deficit disorder was reduced to between 21 and 45 per cent.

When researchers included the extended families of ADHD sufferers, they found that parents, siblings and children of people with attention deficit disorders were five times more likely to have the disorder than individuals who were not related to a diagnosed sufferer.

The strongest evidence of a genetic involvement in ADHD comes from a study that found that children of parents with the disorder had a one in two chance of having the condition themselves.

One Gene or Many?

To begin with, researchers believed that there may be a single gene for attention deficit disorder. However, they now think that there are many genes that may predispose someone to developing the disorder; they also believe that there is a range of factors involved that determine whether an individual will go on to show ADHD signs and behaviours.

The disorder can skip generations, and can be very mild in some people. Whilst poor parenting skills or poor management of an ADHD child can exacerbate the problems, they are very unlikely to be the primary cause of the disorder.

Help and Treatment

A child who is taught coping strategies can be helped to overcome their problems, and turn their disorder into an advantage. Medication is also an option. What is critical is that concerned adults pick up and detect ADHD signs as early as possible.

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Dear coach4learn: The views you seem to be projecting are a blatant disregard towards the obvious truth regarding attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. ADHD, as the article has clearly stated, seems to be polygenic (meaning that the disorder's appearance and severity can vary wildly due to it being controlled by multiple genes). I find it disappointing and, to be frank, disgusting that you would allow yourself to believe that ADHD is a "learned behavior." As someone who suffers from the aforementioned disorder herself, I can assure you that I did not learn it. But, by all means, go ahead and doubt solid science. I'm sure that your lack of solid reasoning and support for your argument is a force to be reckoned with against sound evidence and decades of well-produced research and studies. Though, if you truly believe what you have said (against all better logic and rationality), and if you are sure that you know more than the most intelligent and well-educated people on the planet, then I'm afraid I can't help you. Good luck to you. I hope you realize your misunderstandings one day. Respectfully, Someone with inattentive-presentation ADHD and a GPA of 4.68
overcomeignorance - 10-Aug-17 @ 12:34 AM
I've been with my partner and herson For the past 10 years . My partners son was diagnosed with ADHD in 1997.He now coming up to his 20th birthday, with a lot of encouragement love and Support he is now atCollege where is just received an educational achevement award.My Partner has self medicated past 15 years. , in secret to afraidto tell anyone in fear her doctor would not continue prescribing her sons much needed medications. I have suggested to her doctor that she could have ADHD which he dismissed saying she is to got together! and my partner too ashamedto have him believe. anything different! she has and continues too struggle on a daily basis . any advise would be greatly appreciated.
marc - 31-May-13 @ 10:50 AM
What nonsense.It seems science has forgotten science, and if they look hard enough, they will see what they want to see.Perhaps ADHD SEEMS to run in families is because it is a LEARNED behavior! But wait, we can't medicate THAT.
coach4learn - 19-May-13 @ 7:32 PM
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