Evidence for shared genetic risk between ADHD symptoms and reduced mathematics ability: A twin study

Greven, C.U.; Kovas, Yulia; Willcutt, E.G.; Petrill, S.A. and Plomin, Robert. 2014. Evidence for shared genetic risk between ADHD symptoms and reduced mathematics ability: A twin study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 55(1), pp. 39-48. ISSN 00219630 [Article]

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Background Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and mathematics ability are associated, but little is known about the genetic and environmental influences underlying this association. Methods Data came from more than 6,000 twelve-year-old twin pairs from the UK population-representative Twins Early Development Study. Parents rated each twin's behaviour using a DSM-IV-based 18-item questionnaire of inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD symptoms. Mathematics tests based on the UK National Curriculum were completed by each twin. The twins also completed standardised tests of reading and general cognitive ability. Multivariate twin model fitting was applied. Results Inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD symptoms were highly heritable (67% and 73% respectively). Mathematics ability was moderately heritable (46%). Mathematics ability and inattentiveness showed a significantly greater phenotypic correlation (rp = -.26) and genetic correlation (r A = -.41) than mathematics ability and hyperactivity-impulsivity (rp = -.18; rA = -.22). The genetic correlation between inattentiveness and mathematics ability was largely independent from hyperactivity-impulsivity, and was only partially accounted for by genetic influences related to reading and general cognitive ability. Conclusions Results revealed the novel finding that mathematics ability shows significantly stronger phenotypic and genetic associations with inattentiveness than with hyperactivity-impulsivity. Genetic associations between inattentiveness and mathematics ability could only partially be accounted for by hyperactivity-impulsivity, reading and general cognitive ability. Results suggest that mathematics ability is associated with ADHD symptoms largely because it shares genetic risk factors with inattentiveness, and provide further evidence for considering inattentiveness and hyperactivity-impulsivity separately. DNA markers for ADHD symptoms (especially inattentiveness) may also be candidate risk factors for mathematics ability and vice versa.

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Funded by
U.K. Medical Research Council. Grant Numbers: G0901245, G0500079
U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development . Grant Numbers: HD49861, HD44454, HD46167, HD059215
Government of the Russian Federation. Grant Number: 11.G34.31.003

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January 2014Published


Funding bodyFunder IDGrant Number
U.K. Medical Research CouncilUNSPECIFIED

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Date Deposited:

22 Jul 2014 06:22

Last Modified:

04 Jul 2017 09:25

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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