ADHD in Families

When one member of a family has ADD or ADHD, it can have a big impact on ALL members of the family.
And, we know that ADHD is about 80% genetic, so often when one person has ADHD, one or more of the other family members actually have ADHD.

While ADD/ADHD can be a gift, it can also produce its fair share of challenges. It can lead to overwhelm – for the person with ADD/ADHD, as well as the whole family.

Unless you have the right tools and strategies.

Dr. Rory Stern is hosting an event to help to give you the strategies you need to help your family to thrive with ADHD. He is hosting many experts and doing teleseminars for you to learn from your home. The event starts on May 4th, and runs for 6 weeks. You can attend for free, and then you’ll also have the opportunity to purchase the recordings.

I interviewed Dr. Stern, when I was in Boston for an ADHD conference in March 2009. We were standing on the streets of Boston (actually, you can see Copley Square behind us…), talking about how ADHD can affect families, and we discussed this upcoming event. You can watch the video here: ADHD Family Summit Video.

I hope you’ll take advantage of the great opportunity in the ADHD Family Summit. I know that I will be sharing the best information that I can on the session I’ll be doing on Medications.


Dr. Kenny

p.s. you can register for your FREE spot on the ADHD family summit here.

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  1. This blog offers a great deal of information to those dealing with ADD/ADHD.

    One of the things often seen in research on these conditions is their close relationship, both genetically and behaviorally, to drug use, abuse, and addiction.

    Many of the genes implicated in ADD (including D2 and D4 relevant genes) have been shown to also be associated with addictions.

    I think that down the line we will discover that mental health issues having to do with attention and improper inhibitory control by the brain have a lot to do with many common mental-health issues.

    Keep up the good work!!!

  2. I disagree with the proposition that those with ADHD have any higher genetic ratio for addictions than in the general population. It is like in the general population when people encounter a higher load of stressors they turn to a range of substances to settle themselves or stimulate themselves in an attempt to alter the feelings of imbalance.
    What does happen is that those with ADHD do frequentl experience more stressors due to the ramifications of their condition plus a degree of earlier erratic family life as often their parents that had it too.

    If their life circumstances are positive their worst addictions tend to be coffee, cola, sometimes chocalate untill they have overdone it to developing sensitivities to these.Late diagnosed teens have tended to smoke as the nicotine meets a partial need for the stimulant their brain responds to.

    Those with ADHD coming from positive environments with a variety of interesting activities and timely treatment rarely have high levels of significant substance abuse.

  3. Hi Brigitte,
    I’m sorry that you don’t agree, but science has clearly shown that many of the genes that are more common among ADD and ADHD individuals are also more common among substance abusers.

    If you do the search yourself, you will see that the Dopamine 4 receptor-type gene (called DRD4) has a variation (the 7 repeat one) that is more common both in ADHD patients and substance abusers. The same is true for the dopamine transporter gene (DAT).

    What this means is that at least some of the genetic predisposition to developing both ADD/ADHD and substance abuse problems, likely rest on the same genes.

    If you notice my previous comment, you’ll see that I mentioned both genetic and behavioral influences on the development of the condition. This is true for both ADHD and substance abuse.

    Feel free to come over and read more on the topic. Issues of impulsivity, self-control, and substance abuse come up often at


  4. I disagree with you both, it does not follow that all children with ADHD, ADD have the same underlying cause. The APA came up with a diagnosis for these children who behave in a certain way, and we all accept it as if the disease really exhisted. The APA had nothing more to go on that the fact that children tended to behavior similarly, and like the drug companies we accept the behaviors as a condition to be treated. The drug companies will manufacture a drug, and we in the helping professions develop a treatment for it. Children behave the way that they do because of conditions in their environment, and this means everything from childrearing practices to what they eat on a daily basis.

    The ADD and ADHD are merely symptoms of some underlying cause fo the behavior. In the 30 years in public education as a school psychologist, I followed some children for years, and watched the simple lack of attention in kindergarten develop into full blown behaviors that were diagnosed as ADHD. If there had been intervention in kindergarten, the child would have stabalized by 5th grade. It is all documented in my book LEARNNG DISABILITIES: Understanding the Problem, Managing the Challenges. I will forward you a free copy upon request.

  5. I love conspiracy theories about pharmacological treatments.

    Etta, no one said that ALL children with either ADD or ADHD have the same underlying cause(s). What I did say was that there have been genetic markers linked with the condition. If anyone is not clear on the difference, I’d be happy to explain it further.

    It seems that you don’t believe genetics have any role in behavior, which is something I strongly disagree with, as does most scientific literature.

    Also, your assertion that children WOULD get better if their condition was dealt with in the 5th grade seems pretty self-serving. I’m sure people tried to intervene if the condition was known. Had you said that their condition MIGHT have improved, I’d be right on board, but this notion that you have discovered the cure to ADD and ADHD seems a little suspect to me.

    I would be happy to look at your book though. You can write me on my site and I will give you a shipping address.

  6. Etta, you state that, “The APA came up with a diagnosis for these children who behave in a certain way, and we all accept it as if the disease really exhisted. The APA had nothing more to go on that the fact that children tended to behavior similarly”. This is certainly true. In fact, this is true of EVERY mental disorder recognized by the APA. Psychological disorders occur when behaviors deviate sufficiently from “the norm” to cause a decrease in a person’s quality of life. The APAn has studied behavior and seen that certain features of “abnormal” behavior commonly occur together, and have used this to classify behavioral/ psychological disorders, such as ADHD.This does not in any way mean that these disorders do not exist, as you appear to be implying. In fact, it means that there is solid data to support the fact that these disorders do exist.

    To say that the “The ADD and ADHD are merely symptoms of some underlying cause for the behavior” is not entirely untrue. The symptoms of any disorder have underlying causes, whether these causes are genetic or environmental. I firmly believe that the behavior of a person, whether that person has ADHD or not, is caused by an interaction between that person’s genetic inheritance and environmental influences. (Environmental influences include what people put into their bodies, such as food and medicine). I just as firmly believe that many of the ADHD symptoms that we see today have strong genetic influences. By altering the environment, we can help a person with ADHD to manage their symptoms. In this way, a person who has genetically inherited ADHD can have less symptoms of ADHD by making changes to the environment.

    As a behaviorist, my field would benefit if I could say that medications merely masked the symptoms of ADHD and making changes to the environment would solve the “root problems” of ADHD. But I cannot do so because there is to much evidence that medication treatment is almost always more effective than behavioral treatments for ADHD. While behavioral treatments for ADHD are definitely helpful, they are most effective when they are used along with medication treatment.

    On a side note, while many therapists claim to “do behavior therapy”, they often know very little about the subject and give up when their treatments have failed. If you are looking for behavior therapy, I highly recommend choosing someone who is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), as a BCBA has taken extensive coursework in behavior treatments, has spent a significant amount of time in supervised work in behavior analysis, and has passed an exam which ensures competency in the subject.

    Ok, that’s enough from me for now. I’m afraid I’ve written more than I had planned.

  7. How young is too young for a diagnosis? My husband was diagnosed last year at 35. (A relief to know but were are struggling in dealing with it)
    Our 5-year old shows signs of inattention – not hyperactivty – but comments from teachers resemble greatly comments from my husband’s report cards growing up: Very bright (may be gifted) but needs to pay attention, loses focus when doing uninteresting things, lazy when time to pick up etc…

  8. Thank you for your reply.
    Our daughter is such an amazing, reasonable, social, compasionate, even tempered and well behaved child, many people tell us so. She is extremely bright: has been reading since age 3 and a half, now reading chapter books, has an unbelievable long term memory and has incredible analysis capabilities. When watching,listening or talking to her, you often think she is much older.
    She just sometimes – not always – can’t pay attention or loses focus. Is it normal 5 year-old behavior or ADHD? Does she just get bored when things are not advanced for her? Is it just because we forget she is only 5? I guess I’m afraid to find out as I can see the impact with my husband.

  9. After reading these comments, I am almost afraid to state what seems to be obvious to me about the genes that predispose a person to addiction or to ADHD. If you have the ADHD genetic makeup, why does it follow that you need to treat it chemically? If you are predisposed to being angry or sad or you gain weight easily or tan well in the sun, or if you have brown hair or hear voices…any of these could be caused by your genetic makeup. Certain traits are considered “negative” and certain “positive” I think that more thought should be given to why we choose to medicate people who have these traits.

    It seems very important to continue to try to understand the causes of ADHD type behaviors, but I don’t understand the reason that medication follows as the necessary treatment because genetics contribute. The very fact that so little is known about cause and effects when dealing with the brains of children should make us avoid these powerful medications if at all possible. Or am I missing some very important information?

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