Background: Chaotic home environments may contribute to children's attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. However, ADHD genetic risk may also influence household chaos. This study investigated whether children in chaotic households had more ADHD symptoms, if mothers and children with higher ADHD genetic risk lived in more chaotic households, and the joint association of genetic risk and household chaos on the longitudinal course of ADHD symptoms across childhood. Methods: Participants were mothers and children from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, a UK population-representative birth cohort of 2,232 twins. Children's ADHD symptoms were assessed at ages 5, 7, 10 and 12 years. Household chaos was rated by research workers at ages 7, 10 and 12, and by mother's and twin's self-report at age 12. Genome-wide ADHD polygenic risk scores (PRS) were calculated for mothers (n = 880) and twins (n = 1,999); of these, n = 871 mothers and n = 1,925 children had information on children's ADHD and household chaos. Results: Children in more chaotic households had higher ADHD symptoms. Mothers and children with higher ADHD PRS lived in more chaotic households. Children's ADHD PRS was associated with household chaos over and above mother's PRS, suggesting evocative gene–environment correlation. Children in more chaotic households had higher baseline ADHD symptoms and a slower rate of decline in symptoms. However, sensitivity analyses estimated that gene–environment correlation accounted for a large proportion of the association of household chaos on ADHD symptoms. Conclusions: Children's ADHD genetic risk was independently associated with higher levels of household chaos, emphasising the active role of children in shaping their home environment. Our findings suggest that household chaos partly reflects children's genetic risk for ADHD, calling into question whether household chaos directly influences children's core ADHD symptoms. Our findings highlight the importance of considering parent and child genetic risk in relation to apparent environmental exposures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1153-1163
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • ADHD
  • early life experience
  • family factors
  • genetics
  • longitudinal studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Mother's and children's ADHD genetic risk, household chaos and children's ADHD symptoms: A gene–environment correlation study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this