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31 May 2015

Lόpez Seco F et al. Psychiatry Res 2015; 226: 507-512.

Maternal psychiatric history and paternal symptoms of ADHD are associated with greater ADHD symptom severity in offspring, a recent Spanish study reports.

The study evaluated 73 children (mean age 11.2 years) who were in active treatment for ADHD at public mental health centres, and their biological parents. Parental psychopathology was evaluated using the SCL-90-R*; parental symptoms of hyperactivity were evaluated using the ASRS; and symptomatic severity of ADHD in children was evaluated using the ADHD-RS-IV (with children classed as ‘symptomatic’ or ‘non-symptomatic’ – i.e. as having high or low severity of ADHD symptoms – depending on whether they were above or below the cut-off score of the original scale adjusted for age and sex).

Parental psychopathology was prevalent in the sample with 46.6% of parents having a history of psychiatric treatment, 75.3% of parents having current psychopathology, and 34.2% of children having at least one parent who exceeded the threshold for a diagnosis of ADHD. More than half of the children in the study were classed as ‘symptomatic’ (52.1%) and this group of children were more likely to have mothers with a psychiatric history, than children who were ‘non-symptomatic’ (70.4% vs 29.6%; p=0.03). Although current parental psychopathology was not associated with ADHD in children, there were nearly twice as many mothers and fathers with ADHD symptoms of children with ‘symptomatic’ ADHD than without, although this association was not significant. Logistic regression analyses revealed that younger children had an increased risk of more severe ADHD symptoms (p=0.03), and maternal psychiatric history showed a trend towards association with the child’s symptomatic severity, although this was also not significant.

These findings emphasise the importance of screening for parental psychopathology in children with ADHD and in particular suggest that maternal psychiatric history may be useful in identifying cases of childhood ADHD with high symptom severity, a subgroup likely to require additional attention from clinicians. These findings support the possible inclusion of this process in the formal diagnosis of children with ADHD.

Read more about the importance of evaluating parental psychopathology in the management of children with ADHD here


*Symptom Checklist-90-R
Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale
ADHD Rating Scale-IV

Lόpez Seco F, Aguado-Gracia J, Mundo-Cid P, et al. Maternal psychiatric history is associated with the symptom severity of ADHD in offspring. Psychiatry Res 2015; 226: 507-512.

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