Mom’s Gestational Diabetes, Income Linked to Risk of Childhood ADHD

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
ADHD linked to gestational diabetes in first study.

Offspring of women with lower income who experience gestational diabetes may be at higher risk for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), finds a new study.

Researchers at Queens College and Mount Sinai School of Medicine found the association between in a first study that assessed pre-school children using a standard ADHD rating scale, combined with surveys completed by parents and teachers, one-on-one interviews with mothers and the Socioeconomic Prestige Index.

ADHD is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder, but the cause has been elusive. Symptoms include inability to remain attentive, impulsive behaviors and hyperactivity.

The condition also referred to as ADD and childhood hyperkinesis, affects 3 to 5 percent of school-aged children and is more often seen in girls than boys, according to PubMedHealth.

A recent study, published in Nature Genetics, found a “robust” link to a genetic variant that may cause the condition in approximately 10 percent of cases.


The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, evaluated 212 children at age three or four and again at age six using the standardized ADHD scoring tool in addition to measurements of neuropsychological functioning, intelligence scores, and child temperament. Gestational diabetes status was determined from one-on-one interviews with the children’s mother.

According to the results, gestational diabetes or low socioeconomic status of the mother doubled the risk for ADHD. The two combined, increased the risk 14-fold.

To our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate how prenatal exposure to gestational diabetes and low socioeconomic status together contribute to the development of ADHD,” said lead author Dr. Nomura. “The results show these children are at far greater risk for developing ADHD or showing signs of impaired neurocognitive and behavioral development.”

Because there is a strong link inherited risk of ADHD the authors recommend clinicians take steps to identify risk factors that contribute to the condition so they can educate parents. They also suggest nutritional and psychosocial counseling to help reduce the non-genetic cause of the ADHD, found in the current study from low socioeconomic status and gestational diabetes.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, Jan 2012; doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.784
“Exposure to Gestational Diabetes Mellitus and Low Socioeconomic Status: Effects on Neurocognitive Development and Risk of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Offspring:
Yoko Nomura, PhD, MPH et al.

PubMed: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

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