A reader recently asked: How much do genes matter in ADHD? She’s getting conflicting opinions, and there’s a reason why… there’s no simple answer to that complex question.
Different techniques are used by experts to estimate genetic contributions to all sorts of human traits and problems. Also, it’s hard to determine genes of something that’s not easily or accurately measured, like ADHD – there is no blood test or x-ray or true biological markers. It’s a “clinical” diagnosis, which means, lots of guess work and weighing in and watching over time to see if a diagnosis fits or doesn’t, and ruling out lots of other reasons a child has trouble sitting still or focusing or behaving impulsively.
I reached out to a Harvard Medical School geneticist I know and asked him. He said, “The actual risk to a first degree relative has variously been reported in the 15-60% risk range, with boys, purportedly, at higher risk than girls.” What I take from this is the following. (1) No one really knows exactly how much genes play a role, hence the wide range of 15-60%, and (2) genes are only a piece, perhaps a small piece, of the ADHD puzzle.
My advice is not to think about genetics, but focus on the many environmental factors in our control that are tied to making an ADHD diagnoses:
The list goes on and on…
So let’s think of all the environmental changes and improvements we can make that will help ADHD not become a problem in the first place.