Vol. 7, No. 1, 2001 Page 2

Adoptee study reveals genetic roots of ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a strong risk factor for antisocial behavior and life problems (see related article, Crime Times, 2001, Vol. 7, No. 1, Page 1). A new study adds to evidence that genes play a prominent role in ADHD, as well as in other mental problems often associated with the disorder.

Susan Sprich et al. compared the rates of ADHD and other psychiatric problems in three groups:

The researchers report that only six percent of the adoptive parents of ADHD children, and only three percent of the parents in the control group, exhibited symptoms of the disorder. In contrast, 18 percent of the biological parents of ADHD children exhibited ADHD symptoms.

"Notably," the researchers say, "we found high rates of mood and anxiety disorders among the biological but not the adoptive parents of ADHD children. This finding is consistent with results of prior family studies of ADHD [and] provides further support for the idea that these other psychiatric disorders in ADHD families are variable manifestations of the genes that influence ADHD."

The researchers say their findings are particularly interesting in light of the evidence that ADHD occurs in high rates in adopted children. "Although the reasons for this remain unknown," they say, "it is likely that the biological parents of the adoptees displayed many of the same impulsive characteristics as their offspring, which may have led to unplanned pregnancies."

The researchers say their findings should influence clinicians to provide greater support to adoptive parents of ADHD children, by emphasizing that the children's behavior problems are likely to be genetic rather than environmental.


"Adoptive and biological families of children and adolescents with ADHD," Susan Sprich, Joseph Biederman, Margaret Harding Crawford, Elizabeth Mundy, and Stephen V. Faraone, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 39, No. 11, November 2000, pp. 1432-1437. Address: Susan Sprich, Cognitive- Behavioral Therapy Program, WACC 812, MGH, 15 Parkman Street, Boston, MA 02114.

Related Articles: [2001, Vol. 7] [2002, Vol. 8]

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