Can Apgar Scores Predict if Your Child will have ADHD?

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

ADHD is often diagnosed when a child reaches school age although many parents say they knew something was "wrong" or "different" for several years before that. Because there is no physical diagnostic test for ADHD, parents, even when concerned, have no way of having their child tested for ADHD until at least 3 years old, but usually school age.

A recent study, however, may give some new insight into children that may be at risk of ADHD. This study linked low APGAR scores with a higher chance of developing ADHD. Other studies have linked low scores to epilepsy, cerebral palsy and mental retardation but this is the first study that links the scores to ADHD.

What Is an APGAR Test?

APGAR stands for Appearance,Pulse,Grimace, Activity and Respiration. The tests are given at 1 minute after birth and again at 5 minutes after birth. If low scores are detected both times, the test is sometimes administered again at 10 minutes after birth. This test was first developed in 1952 by Dr. Virginia Apgar as a way to check if a newborn needed immediate medical attention. Each area listed above receives a score of 0, 1 or 2. The scores are then added up and interrupted as follows:

  • Scores of 3 or below are considered critically low

  • Scores of 4-6 are considered fairly low

  • Scores of 7-10 are considered normal

It is important to remember that many healthy children may have scored low on the APGAR test, especially at the test administered at 1 minute after birth. Although the test was not developed to provide long-term information, such as long-term health intellect or behavior, recent studies have shown it may indicate children who have a higher risk to certain medical conditions.

What the Study Showed

Scientists in Denmark studied 980,902 babies born between 1988 to 2001 according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. Some of their findings include:

  • A score between 1 and 4 indicated a 75% higher risk of developing ADHD

  • A score of 5 or 6 indicated a 63% higher risk of developing ADHD

These children were compared to those who scored a 9 or 10.

Out of the almost a million newborns studied, there were 8,234 cases of ADHD diagnosed. Scientists followed the babies from their 3rd birthday until a diagnosis of ADHD or 2006, whichever came first.

ADHD in Children from Birth to 12 Months

Even with low APGAR scores, your baby can't be diagnosed with ADHD. This diagnosis frequently happens after a child begins attending school, when the symptoms become more noticeable because children are required to sit still and focus for longer periods of time. Some children are diagnosed as early as 3 years old, but that is still less common that diagnosing at school age.

Even so, lists some common characteristics of ADHD in newborns:

  • More squirmy

  • Less able to cuddle

  • More impatient

  • More easily frustrated

  • Require more attention

  • Have more colic

  • Have a more difficult temperament

Remember, however, that these signs do not necessarily mean your baby will develop ADHD. Many healthy children were squirmy and fussy when they were newborns and many children with ADHD did not exhibit these signs early in life. A number of parents have told me that their children, later diagnosed with ADHD, would take short cat naps rather than a few hour nap as many babies take each day.

This study, along with all of the other research on ADHD, can help us to better identify and treat ADHD in children. Every little bit of information moves us closer to creating a more rewarding life for our children.

What was your experience? Do you remember your child's APGAR score? Does it reinforce the results of this study? It would be interesting to hear from our members about this subject.

For more information:

ADHD in Children: Birth Through 12 Months
ADHD in Toddlers
ADHD in Preschool
ADHD in Early Elementary Age Children
ADHD in Elementary School
ADHD in Middle School


"(ADD) ADHD at Different Ages", Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Edge Foundation

"Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder", 2008, Aug, Kevin Leehey, M.D.,

"Predicting ADHD Risk From Birth," March 8, 2011, Ann Lukits, Wall Street Journal

"What is ADHD?" 2002, Jim Chandler, M.D.,

"What is the Apgar Score?" Reviewed Feb 2008, Reviewed by Larissa Hirsch, MD,

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.