Yes, ADHD is hereditary. Researchers have been studying the area of genes and ADHD for the past 30 years. Nearly 2,000 studies have been done, with more underway. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and geneticists have worked together to understand what causes ADHD.
We know from the research that kids with ADHD are highly likely to have a parent and other blood relatives who also have ADHD.
There’s no genetic test to determine whether a person has or does not have ADHD. But researchers have identified a number of possible genes that may be involved in ADHD. Larger studies are needed to identify more specific genetic markers.
Genetic research can help people understand the cause of ADHD. It can also lead to better treatments. Experts believe it’s possible that some differences in how people respond to ADHD medication could be genetic. If that’s the case, the more we know about the genes, the more we can tailor a person’s treatment.
If you’re a parent with ADHD, it doesn’t automatically mean that your child has ADHD, too. Many kids who have a parent with ADHD don’t develop ADHD themselves. And kids can have ADHD without having any family risk. Other non-genetic factors can be involved.
Knowing that ADHD is genetic can be helpful in many ways. But it can also lead to difficult feelings. For instance, some parents feel guilty for passing along “ADHD genes.” Keep in mind that we can’t control what genes we’re born with or what genes we pass on. With or without a family connection, what matters most is that kids and adults with ADHD get the support they need.
About the author
About the author
Ellen Braaten, PhD is a child psychologist, professor, and founding director of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program (LEAP) at Massachusetts General Hospital.