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4 myths about what causes ADHD—and why they’re totally wrong

Today's Parent logo Today's Parent 2018-09-12 Keith McArthur
Mom and dad lying on the floor while did plays airplane with daughter: Photo: iStockphoto © Used with permission of / © Rogers Media Inc. 2018. Photo: iStockphoto

So your kid has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and suddenly everyone is an expert on the reasons why. But what actually causes ADHD? (Hint: It’s NOT bad parenting)

1. ADHD is NOT caused by a child’s laziness

Kids with ADHD can face enormous challenges in school and other “normal” situations. Even when they fail to meet expectations, they are often trying much harder than the average kid to sit still, pay attention or raise their hand before talking.

2. ADHD is NOT caused by too much sugar

A proper diet can help kids regulate their ADHD, and a poor diet can make behaviour worse. But a poor diet won’t cause ADHD, and a good diet won’t make it go away.

3. ADHD is NOT caused by poor parenting

There’s so much stigma around ADHD behaviour that parents may feel it’s their fault. Teachers, relatives and strangers may suggest that if only you were more strict (or less strict) or more involved (or less involved), your child would be better “behaved.” But it simply isn’t true. So let’s repeat this one, because it’s important. You are not the cause of your child’s ADHD. If you have any guilt about this being your fault, let go of it now.

4. ADHD is NOT caused by tablets, television or video games

Putting the right parameters around screens and other stimuli can help kids manage ADHD. But like sugar, screen time is neither a cause nor a cure.

So what

actually

causes ADHD?

Most experts agree that ADHD is a hereditary mental condition. If you or your spouse have ADHD, your child is more likely to have it. Or perhaps your child has an aunt, uncle or grandparent with the condition. While researchers haven’t identified an ADHD gene, there are studies underway that will likely identify a series of genes that are expressed differently in people with ADHD.

There are also a small number of environmental factors that have been shown to increase the likelihood that a child will have ADHD. These include being born prematurely or being exposed to drugs and alcohol in the womb.

Read more:

The difficult decision to medicate ADHD or not

13 parenting tips for a better home life when your kid has ADHD

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