ADHD News & Research

Genetic Meta-Analysis: Risk for ADHD is Higher When a Child’s Parent Has ADHD

Is ADHD genetic? Children of parents who have ADHD have an increased risk of developing symptoms, according to a new meta-analysis and review of existing literature on the hereditary underpinnings of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

August 28, 2020

Children of parents who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) have an increased risk of developing ADHD compared to children of neurotypical parents, according to a systematic literature review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Attention Disorders.1 This new paper confirms previous research regarding the genetic underpinnings of ADHD, and its hereditary nature.

In studying four statistically valid articles that detailed the prevalence of ADHD in the children whose parents also had the condition, researchers found the overall prevalence for ADHD among this “high-risk” population ranged from 40% to 57% — significantly higher than that of the control groups, which ranged from 2% to 20%. The meta-analysis also found that:

  • a child whose father had ADHD was 2.67 times more likely to develop ADHD than was a child whose father did not have ADHD
  • high-risk families were more likely to have more than one child with ADHD than were control families
  • high-risk children with ADHD presented with the most impaired social adjustment and psychiatric comorbidity compared to non-high-risk children with ADHD or control children
  • 3% of first-born children of mothers with ADHD also met criteria for ADHD, compared to just 2% of first born children of mothers without ADHD

The meta-analysis of the four studies revealed that overall heterogeneity was high and significant, which could suggest that these studies were not estimating a common prevalence. No significant bias was found using the Egger method for assessing publication bias.

These findings may encourage clinicians to more closely monitor vulnerable high-risk children and to offer more targeted early interventions to help the children, and their parents, too.

[Survey Results: Parents with ADHD Share the Blessings (and Trials) of Parenting with ADHD]


1Uchida, M., Driscoll, H., DiSalvo, M., Rajalakshmim, A., Maiello, M., Spera, V., & Biederman, J. (2020). Assessing the Magnitude of Risk for ADHD in Offspring of Parents with ADHD: A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Attention Disorders