FIU study reveals tie between mothers with ADHD and children with ADHD or autism

An FIU study led by psychologist Erica D. Musser breaks new ground in the understanding of the link between parents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and their children with ADHD or autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Recently published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, the study is the first to find that mothers with ADHD are six times more likely to have children diagnosed with ADHD and two-and-a-half times more likely to have children diagnosed with ASD than moms who do not have ADHD.

“This study shows there is a link between mothers with ADHD and children with autism that we didn’t know existed before,” Musser said. “The idea that autism spectrum disorders are also more likely in children of mothers with ADHD had not been confirmed prior to this. The link may be genetically based or environmentally based, but better understanding that link would require additional research.”

Photo by Megan Castle.

Photo by Megan Castle.

ADHD and autism are the two most common neurodevelopmental disorders observed in children. This investigation is one of the first large, population-based studies to examine the degree to which ADHD and ASD are transmitted in the same families. The researchers relied on electronic medical data for more than 46,000 women and children between the ages of 6 and 12 in the United States.

According to Musser, next steps are to examine whether biological factors are the underlying reasons for why moms with ADHD are more likely to have children with autism. She also suggests looking at fathers with ADHD.

Funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health, the study included researchers from Oregon Health & Science University, University of Oregon, John Hopkins School of Medicine, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, and Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation.