Background Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that starts in childhood and frequently persists in adults. In a comparison of adults with ADHD and a matched control sample, we previously showed that abnormal inhibitory processing is typically preceded or accompanied by other processing deficits in adult ADHD. We now compare these data further to additional data from first-degree relatives (fathers) of children with ADHD to identify whether this pattern of abnormal processing shares familial influences with ADHD in adults. Methods Using a family design, we compared 20 fathers of children with the combined subtype of ADHD with 21 adults with ADHD combined subtype and 20 controls in event-related potential indices of preparatory states and subsequent response inhibition processing as elicited by a cued continuous performance task. Results Fathers of children with ADHD exhibited significantly weaker orienting attention to cues and inhibitory processing than the controls but not the ADHD sample. Conclusions These findings provide evidence for the familial association of attentional orienting and response inhibition processes with ADHD in adults and indicate a familial and neurobiological link between ADHD in children and adults.