Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Support for an independent familial segregation of executive and intelligence endophenotypes in ADHD families

  • N. N. J. Rommelse (a1), M. E. Altink (a2), J. Oosterlaan (a1), C. J. M. Buschgens (a2), J. Buitelaar (a2) and J. A. Sergeant (a1)...

Impairments in executive functioning (EF) and intelligence quotient (IQ) are frequently observed in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The aim of this paper was twofold: first, to examine whether both domains are viable endophenotypic candidates for ADHD and second to investigate whether deficits in both domains tend to co-segregate within families.


A large family-based design was used, including 238 ADHD families (545 children) and 147 control families (271 children). Inhibition, visuospatial and verbal working memory, and performance and verbal IQ were analysed.


Children with ADHD, and their affected and non-affected siblings were all impaired on the EF measures and verbal IQ (though unimpaired on performance IQ) and all measures correlated between siblings. Correlations and sibling cross-correlations were not significant between EF and IQ, though they were significant between the measures of one domain. Group differences on EF were not explained by group differences on IQ and vice versa. The discrepancy score between EF and IQ correlated between siblings, indicating that siblings resembled each other in their EF–IQ discrepancy instead of having generalized impairments across both domains. Siblings of probands who had an EF but not IQ impairment, showed a comparable disproportionate lower EF score in relation to IQ score. The opposite pattern was not significant.


The results supported the viability of EF and IQ as endophenotypic candidates for ADHD. Most findings support an independent familial segregation of both domains. Within EF, similar familial factors influenced inhibition and working memory. Within IQ, similar familial factors influenced verbal and performance IQ.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: N. N. J. Rommelse, M.S., VU University Amsterdam, Department of Clinical Neuropsychology, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands. (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.

A Ardila , D Pineda , M Rosselli (2000). Correlation between intelligence test scores and executive function measures. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology 15, 3136.

LC Bidwell , EG Willcutt , JC DeFries , BF Pennington (2007). Testing for neuropsychological endophenotypes in siblings discordant for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Biological Psychiatry 62, 991998.

R Bull , G Scerif (2001). Executive functioning as a predictor of children's mathematics ability: inhibition, switching, and working memory. Developmental Neuropsychology 19, 273293.

C Clark , M Prior , GJ Kinsella (2000). Do executive function deficits differentiate between adolescents with ADHD and oppositional defiant/conduct disorder? A neuropsychological study using the Six Elements Test and Hayling Sentence Completion Test. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 28, 403414.

J Cohen (1988). Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edn. Erlbaum: Hillsdale, NJ.

AE Doyle , SV Faraone , LJ Seidman , EG Willcutt , JT Nigg , ID Waldman , BF Pennington , J Peart , J Biederman (2005 b). Are endophenotypes based on measures of executive functions useful for molecular genetic studies of ADHD? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 46, 774803.

J Duncan (2005). Frontal lobe function and general intelligence: why it matters. Cortex 41, 215217.

J Duncan , P Burgess , H Emslie (1995). Fluid intelligence after frontal lobe lesions. Neuropsychologia 33, 261268.

J Duncan , H Emslie , P Williams , R Johnson , C Freer (1996). Intelligence and the frontal lobe: the organization of goal-directed behavior. Cognitive Psychology 30, 257303.

S Durston (2003). A review of the biological basis of ADHD. What have we learned from imaging studies? Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews 9, 184195.

RW Engle (2002). Working memory capacity as executive attention. Current Directions in Psychological Science 11, 1923.

SV Faraone , J Biederman , BK Lehman , T Spencer , D Norman , LJ Seidman , I Kraus , J Perrin , WJ Chen , MT Tsuang (1993). Intellectual performance and school failure in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and in their siblings. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 102, 616623.

SV Faraone , J Biederman , D Mennin , J Gershon , MT Tsuang (1996). A prospective four-year follow-up study of children at risk for ADHD: psychiatric, neuropsychological, and psychosocial outcome. Journal of the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry 35, 14491459.

TW Frazier , HA Demaree , EA Youngstrom (2004). Meta-analysis of intellectual and neuropsychological test performance in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Neuropsychology 18, 543555.

II Gottesman , TD Gould (2003). The endophenotype concept in psychiatry: etymology and strategic intentions. American Journal of Psychiatry 160, 636645.

JR Gray , CF Chabris , TS Braver (2003). Neural mechanisms of general fluid intelligence. Nature Neuroscience 6, 316322.

SA Khan , SV Faraone (2006). The genetics of ADHD: a literature review of 2005. Current Psychiatry Reports 8, 393397.

EM Mahone , KM Hagelthorn , LE Cutting , LJ Schuerholz , SF Pelletier , C Rawlins , HS Singer , MB Denckla (2002). Effects of IQ on executive function measures in children with ADHD. Child Neuropsychology 8, 5265.

MA Mariani , RA Barkley (1997). Neuropsychological and academic functioning in preschool boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Developmental Neuropsychology 13, 111129.

R Martinussen , J Hayden , S Hogg-Johnson , R Tannock (2005). A meta-analysis of working memory impairments in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 44, 377384.

JA Mattes (1980). The role of frontal lobe dysfunction in childhood hyperkinesis. Comprehensive Psychiatry 21, 358369.

J Mill , A Caspi , BS Williams , I Craig , A Taylor , M Polo-Tomas , CW Berridge , R Poulton , TE Moffitt (2006). Prediction of heterogeneity in intelligence and adult prognosis by genetic polymorphisms in the dopamine system among children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry 63, 462469.

A Miyake , NP Friedman , MJ Emerson , AH Witzki , A Howerter (2000). The unity and diversity of executive functions and their contributions to complex ‘frontal lobe’ tasks: a latent variable analysis. Cognitive Psychology 41, 49100.

JT Nigg , LG Blaskey , JA Stawicki , J Sachek (2004). Evaluating the endophenotype model of ADHD neuropsychological deficit: results for parents and siblings of children with ADHD combined and inattentive subtypes. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 113, 614625.

J Oosterlaan , GD Logan , JA Sergeant (1998). Response inhibition in AD/HD, CD, comorbid AD/HD+CD, anxious, and control children: a meta-analysis of studies with the stop task. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 39, 411425.

J Oosterlaan , A Scheres , JA Sergeant (2005). Which executive functioning deficits are associated with AD/HD, ODD/CD and comorbid AD/HD+ODD/CD? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 33, 6985.

J Oosterlaan , JA Sergeant (1996). Inhibition in ADHD, anxious and aggressive children: a biologically based model of child psychology. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 24, 1936.

WE Pelham , HR Aronoff , JK Midlam , CJ Shapiro , EM Gnagy , AM Chronis , AN Onyango , G Forehand , A Nguyen , J Waxmonsky (1999). A comparison of ritalin and adderall: efficacy and time-course in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics 103, e43.

BF Pennington , S Ozonoff (1996). Executive functions and developmental psychopathology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 37, 5187.

R Plomin , FM Spinath (2005). Intelligence: genetics, genes, and genomics. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 86, 112129.

RJ Schachar , J Crosbie , CL Barr , TJ Ornstein , J Kennedy , M Malone , W Roberts , A Ickowicz , R Tannock , S Chen , T Pathare (2005). Inhibition of motor responses in siblings concordant and discordant for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry 162, 10761082.

D Schretlen , GD Pearlson , JC Anthony , EH Aylward , AM Augustine , A Davis , P Barta (2000). Elucidating the contributions of processing speed, executive ability, and frontal lobe volume to normal age-related differences in fluid intelligence. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society 6, 5261.

L Seidman , J Biederman , M Monuteaux , W Weber , SV Faraone (2000). Neuropsychological functioning in nonreferred siblings of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 109, 252265.

LJ Seidman , J Biederman , SV Faraone , S Milberger , D Norman , K Seiverd , K Benedict , J Guite , E Mick , K Kiley (1995). Effects of family history and co-morbidity on the neuropsychological performance of children with ADHD: preliminary findings. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 34, 10151024.

JA Sergeant , H Geurts , J Oosterlaan (2002). How specific is a deficit of executive functioning for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder? Behavioural Brain Research 130, 328.

D Slaats-Willemse , H Swaab-Barneveld , L De Sonneville , E Van der Meulen , J Buitelaar (2003). Deficient response inhibition as a cognitive endophenotype of ADHD. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 42, 12421248.

EE Smith , J Jonides (1999). Storage and executive processes in the frontal lobe. Science 283, 16571661.

ID Waldman , JT Nigg , IR Gizer , L Park , MD Rappley , K Friderici (2006). The adrenergic receptor α-2A gene (ADRA2A) and neuropsychological executive functions as putative endophenotypes for childhood ADHD. Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience 6, 1830.

D Wechsler (1944). The Measurement of Adult Intelligence. Williams and Wilkins: Baltimore.

MC Welsh , BF Pennington , DB Groisser (1991). A normative-developmental study of executive function: a window on prefrontal function in children. Developmental Neuropsychology 7, 131149.

EG Willcutt , AE Doyle , JT Nigg , SV Faraone , BF Pennington (2005). Validity of the executive function theory of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a meta-analytic review. Biological Psychiatry 57, 13361346.

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? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 53 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 263 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 29th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.