Will Your Child Inherit ADHD?

Father with his daughter

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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 to this question depends on several factors. The biggest cause of ADHD is genes, which means that 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.

Research suggests that around 40% of children who are diagnosed with ADHD have at least one parent who also has symptoms of the condition.

While you might feel powerless over your genes, there are still some things that you can do to help your child, including watching for early signs and acting as a role model. This article discusses proactive approaches you can take to help your child if they inherit ADHD.

Be Observant

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. It is also important to tell your child's pediatrician that there is a family history of ADHD.

Be Aware of Differences

If your child does inherit ADHD, it might manifest in a very different way from 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 different 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 of 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.

Recap

ADHD is not the same for every person with the condition, so it is important to recognize that your child may be different and may face unique struggles.

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.

Ditch the Guilt

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.

Sharing this condition can also help your child feel closer to you. Because you can relate to their symptoms and struggles, they may feel a closer bond that they might not share with a parent who does not have ADHD.

Recap

If your child does develop ADHD, don't feel guilty. Remind yourself that you are able to understand what they are experiencing and that your child has important strengths that will help them cope.

Be Positive

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 necessarily mean that your parents weren’t supportive. Each generation does its best with the knowledge and research that is available to them at that time.

It's also helpful to reframe how you view ADHD. For example, instead of framing the symptoms of the condition as "deficits," try thinking of them as differences. 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.

A Word From Verywell

ADHD does have a strong genetic component, but that does not mean that your child will necessarily inherit the condition. In addition to the impact of environmental interactions, it is also important to remember that there are many treatment options available that can help your child effectively cope with the condition if they do develop it. 

As someone who understands what it is like to live with the condition, you are uniquely positioned to help them. Be a positive force in your child's life, remember to focus on their strengths, and watch for symptoms so that you can work with your child's doctor to find the best possible treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is ADHD rising when it is genetic?

    There is no question that more children are diagnosed with ADHD than they were in the past, but it is not easy to determine if this means that more kids have the condition or if more kids are being diagnosed. The way that children are diagnosed has changed over time, but it is also possible that children may have been exposed to environmental factors that might affect ADHD.

  • What do we know about the causes of ADHD?

    Genetics has a significant role, but environmental variables also interact with genetics to cause the condition. Factors that are believed to play a role in causing ADHD include poor nutrition or substance use during pregnancy, exposure to environmental toxins, and certain illnesses such as meningitis. Traumatic brain injuries are also thought to be a risk factor. 

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6 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.
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