Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a chronic condition that affects a person’s level of hyperactivity and impulse control. ADHD influences the parts of the brain that help us with what is known as “executive functioning.” This includes problem solving, planning for the future, evaluating behaviors, regulating emotions, and controlling our impulses.

When ADHD causes challenges in a family, a classroom, or a workplace, people can become quick to lose sight of the facts. Parents might worry if they did something wrong in raising their child. They may assume that they used the wrong parenting methods or that an early stressful event in a child’s life caused the condition. Teachers might dismiss a student as lazy or disobedient. Spouses might see their partner as unconcerned about their own needs or emotions. The first step in helping a person with ADHD is understanding the origins of the condition.  By understanding that these origins typically include genetic factors, people can become more objective about the condition and its effects, and blame doesn’t have to be placed on parents or the person with ADHD.

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ADHD and Heredity

Genetics studies are just beginning to identity genes associated with ADHD. In addition to molecular genetic research, the hereditary component of the condition has been supported by various family studies. For example, one study found that over 25% of relatives of families with a child with ADHD also had the condition, a much higher rate than in families without a child with ADHD. Also, twin studies have demonstrated that there is an 82% chance that identical twins will both have ADHD if at least one of them has the condition, compared to a 38% chance among fraternal twins. Finally, children with ADHD who were adopted are more likely to have ADHD present in their biological families than in their adopted families. This confirms that the genetic component is much stronger than any environmental factors.

ADHD and Other Factors

Though the genetic component is considered to be the main cause of ADHD, other environmental and situation factors have been examined as potential contributors. For example, research has noted a correlation between women who use cigarettes and/or consume alcohol while pregnant and the risk of their child developing ADHD. High lead levels among preschool-aged children may also contribute to the development of the condition, so kids who live in older buildings may be at risk. Brain injury from a traumatic event such as a stroke, tumor, or blow to the head can also produce symptoms of inattention and impulsivity that are similar to ADHD, but only a very small percentage of children with an ADHD diagnosis have suffered any brain trauma.

False Origins of ADHD

There are a number of myths about the origins of ADHD. In past decades, there was a prevalent theory that certain foods and sugar can increase the risk of developing the condition. However, researchers are doubtful that there is any connection between these substances and children’s behaviors and ability to learn. Research has also disproven the ideas that hormones or the vestibular system (the part of the brain that affects balance) are related to hyperactivity or ADHD.

Perhaps the most common myth is that ADHD is caused by poor parenting or a difficult family environment. Lack of discipline or too much television, video games, or Internet use can be blamed for the condition. Though environmental factors such as parenting style and stressors in the family can influence the severity of symptoms and the level of impairment, they do not cause ADHD.

Rather than blame themselves for their child’s hyperactivity and impulsivity, parents can focus instead on how they can best help their child get the help they need. When you practice objectivity about the origins of a condition, your free yourself to make smart and healthy choices for yourself and your family. How can you help your child today to get the best support for their ADHD?


Last Updated: Sep 12, 2019