Is ADHD hereditary?

ByEllen Braaten, PhD

is adhd hereditary, father and son hanging out on a couch


My 8-year-old daughter was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Her father also went for an evaluation and it turns out he has it, too. Is ADHD hereditary?


I’ve had many parents ask this question, and the answer is yes. ADHD is hereditary.

Researchers have been studying the area of genes and ADHD (also known as ADD) 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.

Researchers have identified a number of possible genes that may be involved in ADHD. But larger studies are needed to identify more specific genetic markers. There appear to be a number of different genes involved. But there is no genetic test to determine whether a person has or does not have ADHD.

Genetic research can help parents understand the cause of their child’s ADHD. It can also help create 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 individualize treatment.

It’s important for parents to understand that having a genetic risk doesn’t automatically mean kids will have ADHD. Many kids whose parent has ADHD do not 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 to many parents and kids. But it can also be hard when parents feel guilty for passing along “ADHD genes.” It may help to remember we don’t control what genes we are born with or what genes we pass on. With or without a family connection, what matters most for your child is having your love and support.

If your child was recently diagnosed with ADHD, read what to do next. Find out how ADHD is diagnosed in adults. And see a graphic that shows what researchers know about ADHD and the brain.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Ellen Braaten, PhD is the director of LEAP at Massachusetts General Hospital.