Is ADHD Hereditary? Experts Say Yes, Highly

If you or your child has ADHD, then someone else in the family has a good chance of having it, too. We learned this like a slap in the face, just about a year ago, in a counseling session for one of our two recently diagnosed-with-ADHD sons. Our therapist gingerly suggested my husband might have the condition as well. We were briefly taken aback—until we thought about it. “Once she said it, it seemed obvious,” said my husband. “Yes, I had it, too.”

It explained a lot, giving new insights and effective treatment options for my husband’s and our sons’ symptoms. When a father is diagnosed with ADHD, it is easy to feel guilty about “giving” the disorder to his kids. Instead, we felt positive about the diagnosis.

“I don’t feel responsibility in terms of heredity,” says my husband. “I had no control over it.” If anything, knowing ADHD is inherited takes away the worry that bad parenting or something else is to blame for the ADHD. Ultimately, the diagnosis was a relief.

“ADHD makes for a chaotic household, that’s for sure,” he admits, but we now strive to embrace it and work with these challenges instead of against them. It also helps to know that, in coping with the compounding effects of multiple ADHD family members, we are in good company.

Studies show that if you have ADHD, your children have about a 35% chance of acquiring it; if a child has it, there is a 50% likelihood that one of his or her parents does as well. The remaining cases are caused by genetic mutations, prenatal problems, such as infection, hypertension, drinking during pregnancy, or premature birth—or, after birth, head trauma, stroke, lead poisoning, or other neurological events.

Researchers have identified 25-45 (25 conservatively, but likely many more) different genes related to this complex disorder, says Russell Barkley, Ph.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at Virginia Treatment Center for Children and Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center and…

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