February 26, 2019

What Causes ADHD? Is it Genetic, or Is Technology a Factor?

The short answer from a pediatric behavioral health specialist

Young girl lying on couch playing on a digital tablet

Q: Do we know what causes ADHD in children?

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A: Professional thinking at present is that ADHD is a brain-based, genetic condition. Back in the early 2000s, there were two genes associated with neurotransmitter transmission that were associated with ADHD. Now many more have been associated with the condition.

Some say ADHD symptoms have been in the population since prehistory. Popular writers suggest that these are hunter genes — that when we lived in hunter-gatherer tribes, the hunters were the ones who noticed everything, which is what the ADHD brain tends toward in the modern world.

Some people today make the case that we’re living in a world dominated by screens, and that screens are making attention spans shorter. There’s no question that screens are certainly impacting how children react to directed-attention, effortful tasks — that is, the kind of attention that we use to self-regulate and accomplish difficult work. But the real issue is not that screens are changing attention, at least as far as we know.

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There are no clear studies that confirm that screens cause ADHD. That’s a myth, at least for now.

Michael Manos, Ph.D., Clinical Director of the ADHD Center for Evaluation and Treatment

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