Risk Factors for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
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Risk Factors for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

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A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop ADHD with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your (or your child’s) likelihood of developing ADHD.

Risk factors include:


Boys are more frequently diagnosed with ADHD than girls. The reason for this is not known.

Genetic Factors

ADHD and similar disorders tend to run in families, suggesting there may be a genetic component. People with a parent or sibling with ADHD are at increased risk of developing the condition.


Symptoms must appear by age seven in order to be diagnosed with ADHD. Sometimes, the diagnosis is not made in childhood. However, it may be recognized during adolescence or adulthood in people who exhibit typical symptoms.


Extensive research has failed to identify other factors that increase the risk of ADHD, although many circumstances can worsen the symptoms. Family or social stresses, learning disabilities, illness, fear, anxiety, and many other upsets can contribute to inappropriate behavior.


American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed. Text Revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2005.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/healthinformation/adhdmenu.cfmAccessed April 1, 2007 at:

Kids Health. The Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://www.kidshealth.org. Accessed March 31, 2007.

National Resource Center on ADHD website. Available at: http://www.help4adhd.org/. Accessed April 1, 2007.

Last reviewed April 2007 by Janet Greenhut, MD, MPH

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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