Disorders in Childhood

Critical Thinking Questions

Compare the factors that are important in the development of ADHD with those that are important in the development of autism spectrum disorder.


Genetic factors appear to play a major role in the development of both ADHD and autism spectrum disorder: studies show higher rates of concordance among identical twins than among fraternal twins for both disorders. In ADHD, genes that regulate dopamine have been implicated; in autism spectrum disorder, de novo genetic mutations appear to be important. Imaging studies suggest that abnormalities in the frontal lobes may be important in the development of ADHD. Parenting practices are not connected to the development of either disorder. Although environmental toxins are generally unimportant in the development of ADHD, exposure to cigarette smoke during the prenatal period has been linked to the development of the disorder; a number of environmental factors are thought to be associated with an increased risk for autism spectrum disorder: exposure to pollutants, an urban versus rural residence, and vitamin D deficiency. Although some people continue to believe that MMR vaccinations can cause autism spectrum disorder (due to an influential paper that was later retracted), there is no scientific evidence that supports this assertion.