Can Familial Risk for ADHD Be Detected in the First Two Years of Life?

Objective: We evaluated trajectories of attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD)-relevant behaviors in a sample of infants at high and low familial risk for ADHD who were prospectively evaluated at 12, 18, and 24 months of age.Method: Participants included 43 infants at risk for ADHD based on family history (i.e., diagnosed first-degree relative) and 40 low-risk infants (i.e., no family history of ADHD). Instances of inattention, out-of-seat, and grabbing behavior were coded from video; analogous constructs were rated by examiners unaware of familial risk status after completing structured standardized assessments with the infants/toddlers. At the end of each study visit, examiners solicited parents’ concerns about their child’s behavior. Differences in ADHD-related behaviors and parent concerns were examined between 12 and 24 months of age.Results: Infants with an older sibling or parent diagnosed with ADHD were distinguishable from infants with no family history of ADHD as early as 12 months of age based on directly observed and examiner reports of behavior, particularly with respect to hyperactive-impulsive behavior. Parents of infants at familial risk for ADHD also reported significantly more behavior/temperament concerns as early as 12 months of age compared to parents of infants at low risk for ADHD.Conclusions: These findings highlight the ability to detect genetic liability for ADHD by the end of the first year of life, suggesting that well-designed family risk studies of ADHD are feasible and may be clinically valuable. They also suggest the potential for earlier detection of risk for ADHD than has previously been possible.


Diagnosis and Assessments

Laura Bell