Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a persistent neurodevelopmental disorder that affects 5% of children and adolescents and 2.5% of adults worldwide. Throughout an individual's lifetime, ADHD can increase the risk of other psychiatric disorders, educational and occupational failure, accidents, criminality, social disability and addictions. No single risk factor is necessary or sufficient to cause ADHD. In most cases ADHD arises from several genetic and environmental risk factors that each have a small individual effect and act together to increase susceptibility. The multifactorial causation of ADHD is consistent with the heterogeneity of the disorder, which is shown by its extensive psychiatric co-morbidity, its multiple domains of neurocognitive impairment and the wide range of structural and functional brain anomalies associated with it. The diagnosis of ADHD is reliable and valid when evaluated with standard criteria for psychiatric disorders. Rating scales and clinical interviews facilitate diagnosis and aid screening. The expression of symptoms varies as a function of patient developmental stage and social and academic contexts. Although there are no curative treatments for ADHD, evidenced-based treatments can markedly reduce its symptoms and associated impairments. For example, medications are efficacious and normally well tolerated, and various non-pharmacological approaches are also valuable. Ongoing clinical and neurobiological research holds the promise of advancing diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to ADHD. For an illustrated summary of this Primer, visit: http://go.nature.com/J6jiwl.