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Maternal experience of childhood abuse ups risk of ADHD in offspring

09 Jun 2018

Children of mothers who experienced childhood abuse are at increased risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a study reports.

The study included 49,497 mothers who responded to questions about childhood abuse, 7,607 children with ADHD and 102,151 non-ADHD controls. Physical and emotional abuse was assessed with five questions—which pertained to receiving punishments, having bruises, being yelled or screamed at, and hearing hurtful things—from the physical and emotional abuse subscale of the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. Response options were never, rarely, sometimes, often or very often true, which were scored 0–4, respectively.

Maternal exposure to abuse was associated with greater prevalence of ADHD in offspring (8.7 percent of children born to mothers exposed to severe abuse vs 5.5 percent of children born to mothers who were not abused; p=0.0001).

Experience of childhood abuse in mothers increased the risk of developing ADHD in male offspring by 60 percent (risk ratio [RR], 1.6; 95 percent CI, 1.3–1.9) and in female offspring by more than twofold (RR, 2.3; 1.7–3.0).

When perinatal factors were taken into account, the association of maternal childhood abuse with ADHD in offspring was slightly attenuated (male offspring: RR, 1.5; 1.2–1.8; female offspring: RR, 2.1; 1.6–2.8).

The present data highlight the importance of identifying causal factors driving the association between maternal childhood abuse and offspring ADHD to determine potential interventions for alleviating this risk, especially because ADHD is associated in adulthood with lower educational attainment and increased job insecurity, social isolation, criminality and premature death, according to researchers.

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