A new study has found that women who become mums before the age of 20 are more likely to have a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.
Conducted by the University of South Australia (UniSA), the study explored the genetic relationship between female reproductive traits and key psychiatric disorders, and concluded that a child’s risk of ADHD is strongly associated with their mum’s age at first birth.
What is ADHD?
Children with ADHD often have a hard time focusing. | Image source: iStock
ADHD is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder which impacts a person’s ability to exert age-appropriate self-control. The disorder is often characterised by patterns of inattentiveness, impulsive or hyperactive behaviour and poor regulation of emotions.
According to the Institute of Mental Health, ADHD is the most common psychiatric condition amongst children and adolescents in their Child Guidance Clinic in Singapore.
Using genetic data of 220,685 women via the UK Biobank, the study examined genetic correlations between five female reproductive traits such as age at first birth, age at first sexual intercourse, age at first occurrence of menstruation, age at menopause, and the number of live births and six common psychiatric disorders which include ADHD and schizophrenia.
Image source: iStock
The study also found that ADHD is a highly heritable disorder which means that a young mother may also have the genes affecting ADHD risk which is then inherited by her child.
UniSA researcher, Associate Professor Hong Lee commented on how the new findings will better improve reproductive health in young mums and deliver better outcomes for their children.
“Young mums can have it tough, especially as they’re adjusting to becoming a parent while they’re still young themselves. By understanding the links between becoming a mother at a young age and having a child with ADHD, we’re able to better educate and support families sooner.”
“ADHD is treatable, but early diagnosis and interventions are key to a successful outcome,” he added.
However, he also cautioned mums that, “it’s important to understand that while there is a clear genetic link between ADHD and young mothers, this is not necessarily a causal relationship.”