Will Your Child Inherit ADHD?

Father with his daughter

Erin Lester / Cultura / Getty Images

Whether you have recently been diagnosed with ADHD or have been living with ADHD for many years, a question almost all adults ask is: "Will my children have ADHD, too?"

The answer is: It depends.

The biggest cause of ADHD is genes. ADHD does run in families. Even if no one in your extended family has officially been diagnosed with ADHD, you might notice family members with characteristics and traits that resemble ADHD.

Despite this strong genetic link, if you have ADHD, it doesn’t automatically mean your child will, too. This is because it is a combination of genes and environmental factors that determine whether a child develops ADHD. They can inherit ADHD genes without them being activated. For example, one research study found that one-third of fathers with ADHD had children that also developed ADHD.

While you might feel powerless over your genes, here are six suggestions to help.

1) Be Observant

Be observant, and if your child starts to display signs or symptoms of ADHD, seek professional help. Getting an early diagnosis and the appropriate treatment will be invaluable to your child; it will help minimize their struggles and aid their success.

2) Be Aware of Differences

If your child does inherit ADHD, it might manifest in a very different way to your ADHD. For example, if you have hyperactive-impulsive ADHD and your child has inattentive ADHD, your behavior and challenges will be different even though you both have ADHD. Also, ADHD often looks differently depending on the sex of your child. If your son has hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, they could be very physically active, while your daughter might be hyper-talkative and verbally impulsive.

Finally, even if you are the same sex as your child and have the same ADHD presentations, you can still have different ADHD behaviors and challenges. However, knowing that these differences exist can increase your awareness and help you detect ADHD symptoms in your child early.

3) Be a Role Model

Your relationship with ADHD affects how your child deals with their diagnosis. Try to speak about it neutrally, rather than something that is "horrible" and that you wish you didn’t have.

In addition, if you are actively treating and managing your ADHD symptoms, then it will help your child do the same. If you learn and implement ADHD friendly life skills and seek appropriate medical assistance, your child will too.

Children like to fit in. If they are the only child at school with ADHD, it can make them feel isolated and lonely. Knowing that you have ADHD and are doing well, gives them a morale boost and makes them feel less alone.

4) Don’t Feel Guilty

People with ADHD are experts at feeling guilt and shame for all sorts of things from constantly being late to forgetting important tasks at work. However, don’t feel guilty that your child has ADHD. Just like the color of their eyes, you have no control over which genes they inherited.

5) Their Experience of ADHD Will Be Different From Yours

More is known about ADHD than ever before. This means it is easier for ADHD to be detected and the appropriate help is more readily available from the medical community and at school. In addition, your child has a supportive parent who understands their struggles. That doesn’t mean that your parents weren’t supportive! Each generation does the best with the knowledge and research that is available to them at that time.

6) Reframe

Reframe how you view ADHD. Dr. Kenny Handleman calls ADD "Attention Difference Disorder" rather than Attention Deficit Disorder. When you look at ADHD like this, you realize your child’s brain might work differently than some people, yet different doesn’t need to be a bad thing.

Was this page helpful?
5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Faraone SV, Larsson H. Genetics of attention deficit hyperactivity disorderMol Psychiatry. 2019;24:562–575. doi:10.1038/s41380-018-0070-0

  2. National Human Genome Research Institute. About attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Updated November 2012.

  3. Rucklidge JJ. Gender differences in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorderPsychiatr Clin North Am. 2010;33(2):357–373. doi:10.1016/j.psc.2010.01.006

  4. Johnston C, Williamson D, Noyes A, Stewart K, Weiss MD. Parent and child ADHD symptoms in relation to parental attitudes and parenting: Testing the similarity-fit hypothesisJ Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2018;47(sup1):S127–S136. doi:10.1080/15374416.2016.1169538

  5. Handelman K. Attention difference disorder: How to turn your ADHD child or teen's differences into strengths in 7 simple steps. New York, NY : Morgan James Publishing; 2011.  

Additional Reading
  • National Institutes of Health. The ADHD Genetic Research Study. 2012.