This Mental Health Awareness Month, a leading provider of central nervous system medication is encouraging adults of ADHD children to have themselves tested for the condition.


Abdurahmaan Kenny, Mental Health Portfolio Manager for Pharma Dynamics says ADHD is highly familial. “Research shows that 40% of ADHD children have at least one parent with clinical ADHD symptoms, which influences family functioning, parenting and the quality of life of their children.


“Much of the success of the treatment outcomes for ADHD-diagnosed children depends on the commitment of their parents. For many the responsibility can be overwhelming, let alone a parent who is also on the ADHD spectrum.”


According to a 2020 paper on ADHD published in the South African Family Practice, parental commitment is influenced by varying factors, including stress, coping mechanisms, culture, socio-economic status and their knowledge of and attitude towards ADHD.


ADHD and genetics

Kenny cites a meta-analysis published last year in the Journal of Attention Disorders assessing the risk of offspring of ADHD parents, which showed that the overall high-risk prevalence ranged from 40% to 57%, significantly higher than the control groups of non-high-risk children, where the prevalence of ADHD ranged from 2% to 20%.


They documented that children with a father with ADHD were 2.67 times more likely to develop ADHD than children whose fathers did not have ADHD. Researchers also found that 9.3% of first-born children of ADHD mothers met the criteria for ADHD in comparison to 2% of controls. High-risk families were also more likely to have two children with ADHD.


In addition, a 2011 UK-based study published in Procedia Social and Behavioural Sciences found that symptoms of ADHD were more common in those with four or more children.


The bright side

“At the outset, having two or more members with ADHD can make for intense family dynamics,” says Kenny, “however, getting a diagnosis can be liberating for parents: the self-awareness that comes when they realise that their lack of executive function skills, for instance, is related to their condition, helps reduce the guilt and stress they may be experiencing. Getting treatment will improve the parent’s parenting skills and treatment outcomes for the child.”


When parents get treatment for their own ADHD

Once the parent undergoes treatment, research shows that:

  • Parent-child interactions are more positive. A study published in Development andPsychopathology, found that while ADHD symptoms in children were linked to morenegative emotions expressed by their mothers. Moms who shared their children’ssymptoms were much more affectionate and compassionate.
  • The parent’s behaviour management skills improve now that they are able to deal withtheir kids calmly.
  • Executive function skills improve, which assists with organisational skills, i.e. managing medication, making appointments, keeping up with schedules.


When parental ADHD goes unaddressed

If, however, their ADHD symptoms are left unaddressed, they could be dealing with the following parental challenges:


  • Organisational difficulties - managing schedules, keeping track of the child’s needs, running a calm household, missed deadlines, general mishaps
  • Parental stress and more emotional outbursts. Women with ADHD who are stressed out by parenting are also often misdiagnosed with anxiety or depression.
  • Lack of consistency, particularly in terms of discipline
  • Not having a supportive parenting style
  • Connection with their children. Fathers with ADHD symptoms reportedly present with lower levels of involvement and connection with their children.
  • Distraction – distracted parents often have trouble closely supervising their children, which can be risky, given that children with ADHD are so accident-prone.


“Being a parent of a child with ADHD does pose significant challenges for all parents - neurotypical or not. If you do suspect that you may have ADHD yourself, it might be a worthwhile exercise to speak to your healthcare practitioner about a screening and possible treatment plan. The benefits of controlled symptoms are abundant for the parent, the ADHD-diagnosed child as well as the overall family dynamic,” says Kenny.