A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop
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: Gender—Boys are more frequently diagnosed with ADHD than girls.Heredity—ADHD and similar disorders tend to run in families, suggesting there may be a genetic component. People with a parent or a sibling, especially an identical twin, with ADHD are at increased risk of developing the condition.Age—Symptoms typically appear in young children aged 3-6 years old.Maternal factors, such as: Smoking during pregnancyPreterm laborExposure to certain environmental toxins, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)Childhood exposures to environmental toxins, such as lead, which is found in pipes or paint in older buildingsPremature birth
Overall parental health—A child may be at a higher risk of ADHD if their parent has certain conditions, such as
alcohol use disorder or conversion disorder.
Other factors that may increase the risk of ADHD include: Head injury
at a young age (less than 2 years old)
Being born with a serious heart condition
(a genetic condition)
Being exposed to certain pesticidesSpending over 2 hours a day watching TV or playing video games when young
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at:
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/index.shtml. Updated 2012. Accessed October 15, 2015.
Stern T, Rosenbaum J, et al.
Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry.
Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2008.
Understanding ADHD. Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder website. Available at:
http://www.chadd.org/Default.aspx?Section=Causes. Accessed October 13, 2015
Understanding ADHD: Information for parents. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at:
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/adhd/Pages/Understanding-ADHD.aspx. Updated August 20, 2015. Accessed October 13, 2015.
What is ADHD?
Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/learning/adhd.html. Updated July 2014. Accessed October 13, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Kari Kassir, MD
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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