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ADHD

29 October 2019

Are younger mothers more likely to have children with ADHD?

While the causes of ADHD have not yet been determined, research suggests that a mother’s age may play a role.

The exact causes of ADHD are still largely unknown, even though research may have identified a couple of contributing factors.

New research from the University of South Australia has recently indicated that younger mothers have a greater chance of producing a child with ADHD, according to a news release.

The research, published in Scientific Reports, tapped into the genetic relationship between female reproductive traits and psychiatric disorders. It was found that the genetic risk of ADHD in children was associated with the younger age of the mother during her first birth, especially when she was younger than 20.

The study used genetic data of 220 685 women to examine any genetic correlations between reproductive traits (age at first birth, age at first sexual intercourse, age at first occurrence of menstruation and number of live births) and six common psychiatric disorders (ADHD, autism, eating disorders, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia).

According to Associate Professor Hong Lee, the findings of the research could help achieve better outcomes for children of younger mothers and help improve reproductive health. She stated the following:

"Young mums can have it tough, especially as they're adjusting to becoming a parent while they're still young themselves.

"By understanding the links between becoming a mother at a young age and having a child with ADHD, we're able to better educate and support families sooner.

"The approach is twofold. Firstly, we're able to inform young women about the high genetic risk of having a child with ADHD if they give birth at a young age. This may caution and prevent them from giving birth at an immature age, which not only improves their reproductive health but also the maternal environment for their baby.

"Secondly, we're able to educate young mothers about the features of ADHD, such as impulsivity and inattentive behaviours, which may help mothers better recognise the condition in their child and seek treatment sooner than later.

"ADHD is treatable, but early diagnosis and interventions are key to a successful outcome."

According to the researchers, shedding more light on genetic predispositions that may cause ADHD can help monitor the health and wellbeing of the mother and children better and may ensure that help is given where needed.

Understanding what might determine ADHD can also help avoid misunderstanding and misdiagnosing the condition in children.

Image credit: iStock

 

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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation (www.gb4adhd.co.za) She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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