Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 12
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Bora, E. and Pantelis, C. 2016. Meta-analysis of social cognition in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): comparison with healthy controls and autistic spectrum disorder. Psychological Medicine, Vol. 46, Issue. 04, p. 699.

    Pinto, Rebecca Rijsdijk, Fruhling Ronald, Angelica Asherson, Philip and Kuntsi, Jonna 2016. The Genetic Overlap of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Autistic-like Traits: an Investigation of Individual Symptom Scales and Cognitive markers. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, Vol. 44, Issue. 2, p. 335.

    Rommelse, Nanda N. J. and Hartman, Catharina A. 2016. Review: changing (shared) heritability of ASD and ADHD across the lifespan. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 25, Issue. 3, p. 213.

    Tick, Beata Colvert, Emma McEwen, Fiona Stewart, Catherine Woodhouse, Emma Gillan, Nicola Hallett, Victoria Lietz, Stephanie Garnett, Tracy Simonoff, Emily Ronald, Angelica Bolton, Patrick Happé, Francesca and Rijsdijk, Frühling 2016. Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Mental Health Problems: Exploring Etiological Overlaps and Phenotypic Causal Associations. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 55, Issue. 2, p. 106.

    Lai, Meng-Chuan and Baron-Cohen, Simon 2015. Identifying the lost generation of adults with autism spectrum conditions. The Lancet Psychiatry, Vol. 2, Issue. 11, p. 1013.

    Spain, Debbie Sin, Jacqueline Paliokosta, Eleni Furuta, Marie Chalder, Trudie Murphy, Declan G Happé, Francesca G and Spain, Debbie 2015. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

    Taylor, Mark J. Charman, Tony and Ronald, Angelica 2015. Where are the strongest associations between autistic traits and traits of ADHD? evidence from a community-based twin study. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 24, Issue. 9, p. 1129.

    Taylor, Mark J. Robinson, Elise B. Happé, Francesca Bolton, Patrick Freeman, Daniel and Ronald, Angelica 2015. A longitudinal twin study of the association between childhood autistic traits and psychotic experiences in adolescence. Molecular Autism, Vol. 6, Issue. 1,

    Wade, Mark Prime, Heather and Madigan, Sheri 2015. Using Sibling Designs to Understand Neurodevelopmental Disorders: From Genes and Environments to Prevention Programming. BioMed Research International, Vol. 2015, p. 1.

    Nguyen, Camilla and Ronald, Angelica 2014. How do Girls with Low Functioning Autism Compare to Boys with Autism and Typically Developing Girls with regard to Behavior, Cognition, and Psychopathology?. Scandinavian Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology, Vol. 2, Issue. 2, p. 55.

    Sinzig, Judith Vinzelberg, Isabella Bell, Hannah and Quirmbach, Linda 2014. Besonderheiten in der multiaxialen Klassifizierung, Anamnese und Psychopathologie bei Kindern und Jugendlichen mit einer Autismus-Spektrum-Störung und einer Aufmerksamkeitsdefizit-/ Hyperaktivitätsstörung. Kindheit und Entwicklung, Vol. 23, Issue. 1, p. 23.

    Morioka, Hirofumi Kawaike, Yoichi Sameshima, Hisami and Ijichi, Shinji 2013. Behavioral and cognitive core domains shared between autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia. Open Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 03, Issue. 02, p. 26.


Developmental associations between traits of autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a genetically informative, longitudinal twin study

  • M. J. Taylor (a1), T. Charman (a2), E. B. Robinson (a3), R. Plomin (a4), F. Happé (a4), P. Asherson (a4) and A. Ronald (a5)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 16 November 2012

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and associated subclinical traits, regularly co-occur with one another. However, the aetiology of their co-occurrence remains poorly understood. This paper provides the first genetically informative, longitudinal analysis of the interaction between traits of ASD and ADHD, and explores their genetic and environmental overlap.


Parents of approximately 5000 twin pairs completed questionnaires assessing traits of ASD and ADHD when twins were aged 8 and 12 years. Cross-lagged longitudinal modelling explored their developmental association, enabling a consideration of phenotypic-driven processes. Overlapping aetiological influences on traits at age 12 years were explored using bivariate twin modelling.


Traits of ADHD at age 8 years were more strongly predictive of traits of ASD at 12 years than traits of ASD at 8 years were of traits of ADHD at 12 years. Analysis of traits by subscales assessing specific symptom domains suggested that communication difficulties were most strongly associated with traits of ADHD. Bivariate modelling suggested moderate genetic overlap on traits in males (genetic correlation = 0.41), and a modest degree of overlap in females (genetic correlation = 0.23) at age 12 years.


Traits of ADHD at age 8 years significantly influence traits of ASD at age 12 years, after controlling for their initial relationship at age 8 years. In particular, early ADHD traits influenced later communication difficulties. These findings demonstrate the dynamic nature of co-occurring traits across development. In addition, these findings add to a growing body of literature suggesting that traits of ASD and ADHD may arise via similar aetiological processes.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: M. J. Taylor, M.Sc., Centre for Research in Autism and Education, Department of Psychology and Human Development, Institute of Education (University of London), 25 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AA, UK. (Email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

P Asherson , H Gurling (2012). Quantitative and molecular genetics of ADHD. Current Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience 9, 239272.

P Barrett (2007). Structural equation modelling: adjudging model fit. Personality and Individual Differences 42, 815824.

DVM Bishop , G Baird (2001). Parent and teacher report of pragmatic aspects of communication: use of the Children's Communication Checklist in a clinical setting. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 43, 809818.

SA Burt , M McGue , RF Krueger , WG Iacono (2005). How are parent–child conflict and externalizing symptoms related over time? Results from a genetically-informative cross-lagged study. Development and Psychopathology 17, 145165.

T Clark , C Feehan , C Tinline , P Vostanis (1999). Autistic symptoms in children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 8, 5055.

CK Conners , G Sitarenios , JDA Park , JN Epstein (1998). The revised Conners' Parent Rating Scale (CPRS-R): factor structure, reliability, and criterion validity. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 26, 257268.

EI de Bruin , RF Ferdinand , S Meester , PFA de Nijs , F Verheij (2007). High rates of psychiatric co-morbidity in PDD-NOS. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 37, 877886.

HH Goldsmith (1991). A zygosity questionnaire for young adults: a research note. Behavior Genetics 21, 257269.

CU Greven , P Asherson , F Rijsdijk , R Plomin (2011). A longitudinal twin study on the association between inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 39, 623632.

JG Hall (2003). Twinning. Lancet 362, 735743.

V Hallett , A Ronald , F Rijsdijk , F Happé (2010). Association of autistic-like and internalizing traits during childhood: a longitudinal twin study. American Journal of Psychiatry 167, 809817.

F Happé , A Ronald (2008). Fractionable autism triad: a review of evidence from behavioural, genetic, cognitive, and neural research. Neuropsychology Review 18, 287304.

F Happé , A Ronald , R Plomin (2006). Time to give up on a single explanation for autism. Nature Neuroscience 9, 12181220.

DA Kenny (1975). Cross-lagged panel correlation: a test for spuriousness. Psychological Bulletin 82, 887903.

J Kuntsi , F Rijsdijk , A Ronald , P Asherson , R Plomin (2005). Genetic influences on the stability of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms from early to middle childhood. Biological Psychiatry 57, 647654.

MA Leonard , S Milich , EP Lorch (2011). The role of pragmatic language use in mediating the relation between hyperactivity and inattention and social skills problems. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 54, 567579.

P Lichtenstein , E Carlström , M Råstam , C Gillberg , H Anckarsäter (2010). The genetics of autism spectrum disorders and related neuropsychiatric disorders in childhood. American Journal of Psychiatry 167, 13571363.

G McLoughlin , A Ronald , J Kuntsi , P Asherson , R Plomin (2007). Genetic support for the dual nature of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: substantial genetic overlap between the inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive components. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 35, 9991008.

A Mulligan , RJL Anney , M O'Regan , W Chen , L Butler , M Fitzgerald , J Buitelaar , H Steinhausen , A Rothenberger , A Minderaa , J Nijmeijer , PJ Hoekstra , RD Oades , H Roeyers , C Buschgens , H Christiansen , B Franke , I Gabriels , C Hartman , J Kuntsi , R Marco , S Meidad , U Mueller , L Psychogiou , N Rommelse , M Thompson , H Uebel , T Banaschewski , R Ebstein , J Eisenberg , I Manor , A Miranda , F Mulas , J Sergeant , E Sonuga-Barke , P Asherson , SV Faraone , M Gill (2009). Autism symptoms in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a familial trait which correlates with conduct, oppositional defiant, and language and motor disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 39, 197209.

MC Neale , E Røysamb , K Jacobson (2006). Multivariate genetic analysis of sex limitation and G x E interaction. Twin Research and Human Genetics 9, 481489.

MA Nikolas , SA Burt (2010). Genetic and environmental influences on ADHD symptom dimensions of inattention and hyperactivity: a meta-analysis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 119, 117.

J Nijmeijer , PJ Hoekstra , RB Minderaa , JK Buitelaar , ME Altink , CJM Buschgens , EA Fliers , NNJ Rommelse , JA Sergeant , CA Hartman (2009). PDD symptoms in ADHD, an independent familial trait? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 37, 443453.

TS Price , B Freeman , I Craig , SA Petrill , L Ebersole , R Plomin (2000). Infant zygosity can be assigned by parental report questionnaire data. Twin Research 3, 129133.

AM Reiersen , JN Constantino , HE Volk , RD Todd (2007). Autistic traits in a population-based ADHD twin sample. Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology 48, 464472.

EB Robinson , K Munir , MR Munafo , M Hughes , MC McCormick , KC Koenen (2011). Stability of autistic traits in the general population: further evidence for a continuum of impairment. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 50, 376384.

A Ronald , LR Edelson , P Asherson , KJ Saudino (2010 a). Exploring the relationship between autistic-like traits and ADHD behaviours in early childhood: findings from a community twin study of 2-year-olds. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 38, 185196.

A Ronald , F Happé , P Bolton , LM Butcher , TS Price , S Wheelwright , S Baron-Cohen , R Plomin (2006). Genetic heterogeneity between the three components of the autism spectrum: a twin study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 45, 691699.

A Ronald , RA Hoekstra (2011). Autism spectrum disorders and autistic traits: a decade of new twin studies. American Journal of Medical Genetics, Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics 156, 255274.

A Ronald , F Happé , K Dworzynski , P Bolton , R Plomin (2010 b). Exploring the relation between prenatal and neonatal complications and later autistic-like features in a representative community sample of twins. Child Development 81, 166182.

A Ronald , E Simonoff , J Kuntsi , P Asherson , R Plomin (2008). Evidence for overlapping genetic influences on autistic and ADHD behaviours in a community twin study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 49, 535542.

FJ Scott , S Baron-Cohen , P Bolton , C Brayne (2002). The CAST (Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test): preliminary development of a UK screen for mainstream primary-school-age children. Autism 6, 931.

E Simonoff , A Pickles , T Charman , S Chandler , T Loucas , G Baird (2008). Psychiatric disorders in children with autism spectrum disorders: prevalence, comorbidity, and associated factors in a population-derived sample. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 47, 921929.

B St Pourcain , WP Mandy , J Heron , J Golding , G Davey Smith , DH Skuse (2011). Links between co-occurring social-communication and hyperactive-inattentive trait trajectories. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 50, 892902.

E Turkheimer , M Waldron (2000). Nonshared environment: a theoretical, methodological, and quantitative review. Psychological Bulletin 126, 78108.

AJO Whitehouse , M Hickey , A Ronald (2011). Are autistic traits in the general population stable across development? PLoS One 6, e23029.

J Williams , F Scott , C Stott , C Allison , S Baron-Cohen , C Brayne (2005). The CAST (Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test): test accuracy. Autism 9, 4568.

Y Yoshida , T Uchiyama (2004). The clinical necessity for assessing Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) symptoms in children with high-functioning pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 13, 307314.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *