Why Are So Many Kids Getting Diagnosed with ADD or ADHD?

Why are so many kids getting diagnosed with ADD or ADHD?

Ellen Rome, M.D.

Ellen Rome, M.D.

Dr. Ellen Rome is a board-certified pediatrician who was among the first in the U.S. to be board certified in adolescent medicine. She... Read more

A. We don’t know exactly why we are seeing more attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Reasons may include better recognition and diagnosis, and better treatments, making recognition more relevant for families.


ADD/ADHD occurs in 3 to 5 percent of school-aged children. Many children inherit the disease. Parents with ADHD have a one in four chance of having a child with ADHD. And siblings are five to seven times more likely to be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD than the general population. 


Several genes have been identified that make one susceptible to ADHD. These genes are linked to brain messengers called neurotransmitters. Genes and environment can work together to bring out ADD/ADHD; in a child who carries the gene, prenatal exposures to cigarette smoke, lead, alcohol and cocaine can tip the balance to activate that gene. Other associated factors include prematurity, poor growth in utero, brain infections such as meningitis or encephalitis, and certain inborn errors of metabolism (missing enzymes in the body causing problems). Other specific genetic syndromes, such as Tourette’s syndrome and fragile X syndrome, are associated with ADHD.