Impact of ADHD on the Family

The stress of raising a child with ADHD can be tremendous. Families with an ADHD child have higher incidences of verbal and physical abuse, along with substance abuse.

The Stress of Raising an ADHD Child

The stress of raising a child with ADHD can be tremendous. Families with an ADHD child have higher incidences of verbal and physical abuse, along with substance abuse.Living in families, and raising children can be difficult under the best of circumstances. Many of us had a hard time living in the families that we grew up in. It may be difficult today, living together in the families that we have created. We may feel guilty for not giving our children or partner what we feel they deserve. We may feel painfully aware of how we are not taking care of our own needs. This is especially true if a member, or several members of our family have Attention Deficit Disorder.

As our knowledge of Attention Deficit Disorder grows, we are learning that ADD is not simply a disorder of childhood. ADD is life long condition. Children with ADD grow up to be adults with ADD. People with ADD do not live and grow in a vacuum. They have relationships, children, and create families with people who may or may not have ADD. Therefore, it is essential to help not only the person directly affected by ADD, but the entire family. Attention Deficit Disorder, similar to addictions affects every member in the family. Families do not cause ADD, and yet families need help to live and thrive in spite of the impact of ADD.

We now know that ADD runs in families. It has been estimated that there is a 30% chance that a child with ADD has at least one parent who has ADD. It has also been estimate that there is a 30% chance that that same child will have a sibling with ADD. I frequently work with families where one or both parents have ADD, and one or two of their children also have the condition. Living in a family with ADD can be like living in a five ring circus. There is always someone or something that demands attention.

As parents we want the best for our children, and are often willing to sacrifice our needs for theirs. But what is the impact on the family if one of the parents has untreated Attention Deficit Disorder? Too many times, I hear caring parents say, "Please help my son or daughter. I've dealt with this all my life and can continue to." The problem with this is that it can be incredibly difficult to provide consistent parenting for any child, let alone a child with ADD, if you as the parent have untreated ADD. There is a reason why the airlines request that adults put their oxygen mask on first, so that they are then able to help the children.

Families with ADD have higher incidents of physical, and verbal abuse. Substances such as alcohol, food and drugs are often used to self-medicate the pain and frustration of family ADD. Some parents of children with ADD suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a condition that occurs when people are subjected to extreme, ongoing stress that is beyond the realm of normal experience. PTSD symptoms include depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, hyper-vigilance, and re-experiencing of the trauma.

For the for mention reasons, it is imperative that ADD is viewed in the context of the family, or persons environment. Relationship therapy that is specific to addressing the impact of ADD is essential. Family therapy which includes parents and siblings with and without ADD is critical. So often the non-ADD siblings are left out, or feel that they have to somehow make up for the difficulties that their ADD sibling(s) are causing. Educating and treating all members of the family system promotes family wellness.

We have learned from the evolution of the chemical dependency field over that past two decades that treating alcoholics and addicts outside of the context of their relationships is less than helpful. We have also learned that family members of the chemically dependent person also need treatment, so that they too can recover. The same is true with Attention Deficit Disorder. Let us continue to be quick learners as our knowledge of ADD expands. ADD is not caused by poor parenting, or dysfunctional families, and yet the entire family deserves treatment. No one in the family is immune from the impact of Attention Deficit Disorder.

About the author: Wendy Richardson M.A., LMFCC specializes in the treatment of ADD and co-related substance abuse. She provides education and therapy for couples and families where ADD is present. She is a writer who speaks nationally and provides workshops and trainings on Attention Deficit Disorder.


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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 10). Impact of ADHD on the Family, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 23 from

Last Updated: February 12, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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