ADHD and genetics debate gets attention

As if children with ADHD and their parents don’t already suffer enough, there is a renewed row over whether genetics or parenting is to blame.  ADHD affects three to nine per cent of all school age children in Britain.  It has been designated the most widespread behavioural disorder in the country.

ADHD is not a clearly defined malady but a conglomeration of symptoms such as restlessness, squirming, difficulty in discernment, and impulsivity.  The range of problems could run all the way from a child who cannot dress themselves to a child who has trouble keeping friends or achieving in school.

You will note that most healthy children can easily have the same symptoms.  This is what makes diagnosing ADHD so difficult, let alone determining its cause.

The recent argument began when an analysis in the Lancet reported that children who suffer from ADHD have an increased likelihood of missing bits of DNA or having duplicate DNA than children not suffering from the illness.  This was touted as evidence that ADHD is a genetic disorder.

Psychologist, Oliver James took exception to the findings and blasted the Cardiff University researchers who ran the study.  In a statement on the BBC he said that the researchers had inflated their claim and that only fifty-seven per cent of the children in the Cardiff study had the variant in their genes to begin with.

Let’s try and unravel what is going on here by explaining what we know ADHD to be, and what it is not.  ADHD is not a genetic disorder and it is not the result of incompetent parenting or bad diet.  ADHD is a combination of many factors.

The Cardiff group’s discoveries did not point out a genetic defect; they isolated a genetic variant that could be an indicator that ADHD is a risk.  In truth, the causes of ADHD are very complex and such discoveries can be better used to help better understand the disorder, not to find an ultimate origin.

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