ADHD, or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, could be a a result of genetics, according to researchers on Thursday. Scientists at Cardiff University say that they have found the very first evidence that links ADHD to genetics, but some analysts disagree with the researchers' conclusions.
This ADHD study, first published in the Lancet, found that those with ADHD were more apt to having bits of their DNA duplicated or missing compared with other children.
"We hope that these findings will help overcome the stigma associated with ADHD," said study leader Anita Thapar, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Cardiff University.
Thapar said that the findings could help erase some of the stigma associated with ADHD-diagnosed children, such as suggestions that they consume too much sugar or have bad parents.
The study analyzed the genomes for 366 children diagnosed with ADHD and compared it with more than 1,000 control samples. ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed childhood disorders. Some of the symptoms include restlessness, impulsivity, and difficulty focusing.
“As a clinician, it was clear to me that this was unlikely to be the case," Thapar added. “Now we can say with confidence that ADHD is a genetic disease and that the brains of children with this condition develop differently to those of other children.”
However, according to BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh, that may not be the case.
“Because those bold claims do not seem to be borne out by the actual research paper. The study analysed DNA from 366 children with ADHD and 1,047 controls,” he said.
Walsh added that when he did the calculations, 15 percent of the ADHD-diagnosed children had the genetic variant and only 7 percent of children in the control group had the gene. This means that seven out of eight children did not have the variant.
He concluded that bad parenting, poor diet, and other factors may be as much to blame for the disorder as genetics.
“Like many disorders, there is no simple cause behind ADHD. Simply blaming poor parenting is surely as bad as saying it's all down to our genes,” he wrote. “Parents of children with ADHD would prefer help rather than labels.”