Phenotypic and measurement influences on heritability estimates in childhood ADHD

  • Freitag C
  • Rohde L
  • Lempp T
 et al. 
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Twin studies described a strongly heritable component of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents. However, findings varied considerably between studies. In addition, ADHD presents with a high rate of comorbid disorders and associated psychopathology. Therefore, this literature review reports findings from population-based twin studies regarding the influence of subtypes, assessment instruments, rater effects, sex differences, and comorbidity rates on ADHD heritability estimates. In addition, genetic effects on the persistence of ADHD are discussed. By reviewing relevant factors influencing heritability estimates more homogeneous subtypes relevant for molecular genetic studies can be elicited. A systematic search of population-based twin studies in ADHD was performed, using the databases PubMed and PsycInfo. Results of family studies were added in case insufficient or contradictory findings were obtained in twin studies. Heritability estimates were strongly influenced by rater effects and assessment instruments. Inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were likely influenced by common as well as specific genetic risk factors. Besides persistent ADHD, ADHD accompanied by symptoms of conduct or antisocial personality disorder might be another strongly genetically determined subtype, however, family environmental risk factors have also been established for this pattern of comorbidity.

Author-supplied keywords

  • ADHD
  • Comorbidity
  • Heritability
  • Phenotype
  • Rater effects

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  • Christine M. Freitag

  • Luis A. Rohde

  • Thomas Lempp

  • Marcel Romanos

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