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Genetics of ADHD, Hyperactivity, and Attention Problems

  • Eske M. Derks
  • James J. Hudziak
  • Dorret I. Boomsma

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by symptoms of inattention, and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity. Inattention symptoms are present when an individual fails to pay attention and has difficulty in concentrating. Children or adults who are hyperactive fidget, squirm and move about constantly and can not sit still for any length of time. Impulsivity can be described as acting or speaking too quickly without first thinking of the consequences. Children with ADHD face developmental and social difficulties. As adults, they may face problems related to employment, driving a car, or relationships (Barkley, 2002). As is the case for many other psychiatric disorders, the diagnosis of ADHD is not based on a specific pathological agent, such as a microbe, a toxin, or a genetic mutation, but instead on the collection of signs and symptoms that occur together more frequently than expected by chance (Todd, Constantino, & Neuman, 2005). Genetic studies of psychiatric disorders are complicated by this lack of clear diagnostic tests (Hudziak, 2001). Heritability estimates in epidemiological genetic studies and the results of gene-finding studies may vary as a consequence of the instrument that is used to assess ADHD, and of other factors such as the specific population that is investigated. In the current chapter we will focus on behavioral measures of ADHD, and not on endophenotypes (i.e., phenotypes that form a link between the biological pathway and the behavioral outcome, for example, executive functioning). An excellent overview of endophenotypes for ADHD can be found in Castellanos and Tannock (2002). In this overview, we will first present epidemiological studies on the prevalence of ADHD (Section Prevalence of ADHD). Next, the results of studies reporting the heritability of ADHD and related phenotypes will be discussed (Section Genetic Epidemiological Studies on ADHD in Children). We concentrate on variation in these statistics as a result of the specific characteristics of the samples (e.g., age and sex of the children) and as a result of variation in the assessment methods and informants. Finally, we give an overview of studies reporting on the agreement between questionnaire data and diagnostic interviews (Section The Relation Between Questionnaire Data and Diagnostic Interviews).

Keywords

Item Response Theory Adolescent Psychiatry Teacher Rating Attention Problem Behavior Genetic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eske M. Derks
    • 1
  • James J. Hudziak
    • 2
  • Dorret I. Boomsma
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological PsychologyVrije UniversiteitThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Medicine (Division of Human Genetics)Center for Children, Youth and Families, University of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological PsychologyVrije UniversiteitThe Netherlands

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