Parenting a Child With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

ADHD Symptoms in Children

Quick GuideADHD Pictures Slideshow: Tips for Parenting a Child With ADHD

ADHD Pictures Slideshow: Tips for Parenting a Child With ADHD

What are the causes of childhood ADHD?

The cause of ADHD has not been defined. One theory springs from observations regarding variations in functional brain-imaging studies of those with and without symptoms. However, these variations have been shown in studies of the structure of the brain of ADHD affected and unaffected individuals. Animal studies have demonstrated differences in the chemistry of brain transmitters involved with judgment, impulse control, alertness, planning, and mental flexibility. A genetic predisposition has been demonstrated in (identical) twin and sibling studies. If one identical twin is diagnosed with ADHD, there is a 92% probability of the same diagnosis in the twin sibling. When comparing nonidentical twin sibling subjects, the probability falls to 33%. The overall population incidence is 3%-10%.

Genes that control the relative levels of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters seem to be different in ADHD, and levels of these neurotransmitters are out of normal balance.

  • MRI and other imaging studies suggest that these imbalances occur in parts of the brain that control certain types of movement and executive function (see below).
  • These areas of the brain may be smaller and/or less active in people with ADHD.

While most teens and adults with ADHD are no longer hyperactive in behavior, they commonly have a suboptimal executive function skill set. The six major tasks of executive function that are most commonly distorted with ADHD are the following:

  • Shifting from one mindset or strategy to another (that is, flexibility)
  • Organization (for example, anticipating both needs and problems)
  • Planning (for example, goal setting)
  • Working memory (that is, receiving, storing, then retrieving information within short-term memory)
  • Separating emotions from reason
  • Regulating speech and movements appropriately
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/22/2016

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