ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Diagnosis

Signs of ADD / ADHD in Infants

When does ADD / ADHD start? Is it possible to spot infants that will develop ADHD and what are the signs to look for?

Sleep disorders such as apnea have been linked to ADD / ADHD (ADHD and Sleep Disorders) but can infant sleep patterns be a sign of ADHD in later years? A small study identified 27 infants with severe or chronic sleep problems and then examined them again when they were five and half years old. One in four of the sleep troubled infants developed ADHD. Amongst the general population about 5% or one in twenty children develops ADHD.
By closly examining the difference between those infants with sleep problems that developed ADHD and those that didn’t they found that certain characteristics in infancy were associated with subsequent diagnosis of ADHD:

  • Psychosocial problems in the family
  • Bedtime struggles
  • Long sleep latency at bedtime

The role of psychosocial problems links to research on how parenting style and ADHD are connected. (Parenting and ADHD). The role of parents in ADD / ADHD is a very sensitive area. Parenting a child with ADHD is difficult enough but to then tell the parents that are at least partially to blame is an ethically gray area. An area our next study dive head first into

Sixty six infants, aged seven months, were identified as having a familiar risk of ADHD. This is based on children and adults related to the infant having ADD or ADHD symptoms or signs. Those infants whose fathers displayed the most of symptoms of ADHD were assigned to a ADHD risk group whilst those whose fathers had the least signs of ADHD were placed in a comparison group. The behavior of the two groups was then compared. The ADHD risk group significantly differed from the comparison group on measures of interest, anger, and activity level and showed less interest in block play and more anger. These signs of ADD / ADHD are subtle but they are there in infants. It may be that the best way to deal with ADHD in infants is to treat to the father’s ADHD symptoms.

Amongst the many theories about the causes of ADHD one suspect is dopamine, a neurotransmitter. The role this chemical plays in the brain is complex but it is linked to movement, attention and memory. A Danish study examined six adolescents with ADHD and measured their dopamine receptors. They had an unusually high level of receptors available. The six children had all had the amount of blood flowing through their brains measured when they were new born infants. By comparing the amount dopamine receptors and the brain blood flow when born, the researches found a correlation. The less blood flow in the brain as an infant, the more dopamine receptors there were when adolescent.

Whilst its not possible for the average parent to have a cerebral blood flow check on their new born infants, it does tell us that the neurological building blocks of ADHD are present in new born infants.

These three studies show that it might be possible to spot ADD / ADHD in infants and toddlers. Poor sleep patterns, less focus and more anger are potential signs of later ADHD as are symptoms of ADHD in the behaviour of the parents.

Previously on Myomancy:
Signs of Autism in Toddlers and Infants

Severe sleep problems in infancy associated with subsequent development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder at 5.5 years of age
ADHD: increased dopamine receptor availability linked to attention deficit and low neonatal cerebral blood flow
Emerging developmental pathways to ADHD: possible path markers in early infancy.


  1. Fascinating post. Supposing for the moment that it’s possible to identify precursors to ADHD in infants, I wonder how many parents would want to know, and how many would hope it would “work itself out.” To take it a step farther, if the precursors are measurable in infants, there is likely a strong genetic component, and it could be possible to prenatally screen fetuses for ADHD, which might pose ethical issues for some parents.

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