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Potential Predictors of ADHD

Identifying Young Children at Possible Risk


Updated June 22, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

The following is a list of potential predictors that may help us to identify children who are at risk for developing early symptoms of ADHD. If you are a parent or caregiver of a child who is showing signs consistent with ADHD symptoms, talk with your pediatrician or healthcare provider.

1. High activity level and demanding personality in infancy and the toddler years

Sometimes some of the signs of ADHD may be noticeable as early as infancy and the toddler years. You may notice a high activity level, a demanding personality, a difficulty temperament, and irritability. The child may cry excessively and have difficulty being soothed. He or she may be extremely restless or overactive and may have unstable sleep patterns. These behaviors don’t indicate for certain that your child has ADHD; rather, they are possible indicators that you can be aware of and keep tabs on.

2. Family history of ADHD

ADHD is largely an inherited condition. It is estimated that 80% of individuals diagnosed with ADHD have inherited the condition. So if one of the parents or another family member has ADHD, there is an elevated risk that the child may also develop ADHD.

As a side note: If you are a parent with untreated ADHD, know that your own symptoms can certainly affect your ability to be consistent, to keep your child on a schedule, and can even interfere with your patience and ability to use effective parenting strategies. In other words, it can be a challenge to organize someone else’s life when you are struggling to organize your own! So if you have concerns that you may have ADHD, be sure to talk with your doctor.

Additional possible predictors of ADHD may include:

3. Exposure in utero to cigarette smoke or alcohol consumption by mother during pregnancy

4. Obstetrical complications during pregnancy, including premature delivery and/or low birth weight that is associated with bleeding in the brain

5. Early brain injury or other impediment to normal brain development

6. Poor health and delays in motor and language development

To learn more about the early signs and symptoms of ADHD read Detecting ADHD in Young Children.


Russell A. Barkley. Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents (Revised Edition). Guilford Press. 2005.

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