For more information, call: 877-CENTEGRA

A-Z Health Topics

Return to Index
by Polsdorfer R

Risk Factors for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop ADHD with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your (or your child’s) likelihood of developing ADHD.
Risk factors include:
  • Gender—Boys are more frequently diagnosed with ADHD than girls.
  • Heredity—ADHD and similar disorders tend to run in families, suggesting there may be a genetic component. People with a parent or a sibling, especially an identical twin, with ADHD are at increased risk of developing the condition.
  • Age—Symptoms typically appear in young children aged 3-6 years old.
  • Maternal factors, such as:
    • Smoking during pregnancy
    • Preterm labor
    • Exposure to certain environmental toxins, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Childhood exposures to environmental toxins, such as lead, which is found in pipes or paint in older buildings
  • Premature birth
  • Overall parental health—A child may be at a higher risk of ADHD if their parent has certain conditions, such as alcohol use disorder or conversion disorder.
Other factors that may increase the risk of ADHD include:
  • Head injury at a young age (less than 2 years old)
  • Being born with a serious heart condition
  • Having Turner syndrome (a genetic condition)
  • Being exposed to certain pesticides
  • Spending over 2 hours a day watching TV or playing video games when young


Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated June 26, 2015. Accessed October 13, 2015
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated August 25, 2015. Accessed October 13, 2015.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: Updated 2012. Accessed October 15, 2015.
Stern T, Rosenbaum J, et al. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2008.
Understanding ADHD. Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder website. Available at: Accessed October 13, 2015
Understanding ADHD: Information for parents. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: Updated August 20, 2015. Accessed October 13, 2015.
What is ADHD? The Nemours Kids Health website. Available at: Updated July 2014. Accessed October 13, 2015.
2/4/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Froehlich TE, Lanphear BP, Auinger P, et al. Association of tobacco and lead exposures with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics. 2009;124(6):1054-1063.
11/19/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Swing EL, Gentile DA, Anderson CA, Walsh DA. Television and video game exposure and the development of attention problems. Pediatrics. 2010;126(2):214-221
1/13/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Silva D, Colvin L, Hagemann E, Bower C. Environmental risk factors by gender associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics. 2014;133(1):e14-e22.

Revision Information