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ADHD: genes play a role, but how crucial are they?

Anyone whose child has been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has good reason to feel exasperated. Last week a scientific squabble over what may or may not cause the behavioural problems associated with the condition spilled into the news.

ADHD is the most common behavioural problem in Britain and is estimated to affect 3%-9% of schoolchildren. This is no single, well-defined disorder, but rather a group of symptoms that include impulsivity, difficulty concentrating, restlessness and fidgeting. The impact can be serious. The child might not be able to feed him or herself, may struggle to make and keep friends, and is at risk of underachieving. Since most perfectly healthy children are prone to these kinds of behaviours, diagnosing ADHD is not straightforward.

The trouble began with a study in the Lancet medical journal by researchers at Cardiff University who found children with ADHD were more likely to have duplicate or missing chunks of DNA than other children. A press release from the Wellcome Trust, which partly funded the study, declared the work “the first direct evidence that attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is a genetic condition”. Professor Anita Thapar, who led the study, hoped the findings would lay to rest the myth that ADHD was down to bad parenting and poor diet.

Read more here: ADHD: genes play a role, but how crucial are they? | Society | The Observer.

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