ADHD News & Research

With Evidence That ADHD Is Genetic Mounting, Should Testing Become a Family Affair?

The research that indicates ADD/ADHD is hereditary is tough to ignore. If one family member has been diagnosed, should the rest be tested as well?

You’re sitting in the doctor’s office, congratulating yourself for finally scheduling your child for an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) evaluation. As the doctor ticks off the symptoms and asks you to confirm if your child shows signs of them, an uneasy feeling overtakes you. You have more than half of the symptoms you acknowledged in your child.

It is one of those confusing, illuminating, unsettling moments. You appear focused on the doctor as he takes your child’s history to nail down a diagnosis, but your mind is chewing on the prospect that both you and your child might have ADD/ADHD. You weren’t ready for that possibility. Self-congratulation turns to mounting consternation.

The genetic evidence for ADD/ADHD can be ignored but not argued away. Studies of twins and families make it clear that genetic factors are the major causes of ADD/ADHD, says Russell Barkley, Ph.D., author of Taking Charge of Adult ADHD. In fact, an estimated 75 to 80 percent of variation in the severity of ADD/ADHD traits is the result of genetic factors. Some studies place this figure at over 90 percent.

If your child has been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, it is likely that you or your partner has the disorder. Make an appointment for an evaluation. The sooner you know, the sooner you’ll receive treatment. And that translates into a better career, marriage, and life.

Your child’s doctor should take action, as well. If she’s diagnosed your child, it should become protocol that she evaluates you. Considering the genetic facts, staying silent is malpractice, wouldn’t you say? On the other hand, not all professionals know about the causes of the disorder. Be prepared to educate your doctor by lobbing out a “Did you know about…” and a “Shouldn’t I be evaluated, too?”

Either way, evaluation should never stop with just one member of the family.

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