Reading and Writing

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 103-125

First online:

Preschool twin study of the relation between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and prereading skills

  • Erik G. WillcuttAffiliated withUniversity of Colorado Email author 
  • , Rebecca S. BetjemannAffiliated withUniversity of Colorado
  • , Sally J. WadsworthAffiliated withUniversity of Colorado
  • , Stefan SamuelssonAffiliated withUniversity of StavangerLinköping University
  • , Robin CorleyAffiliated withUniversity of Colorado
  • , John C. DeFriesAffiliated withUniversity of Colorado
  • , Brian ByrneAffiliated withUniversity of New England
  • , Bruce F. PenningtonAffiliated withUniversity of Denver
  • , Richard K. OlsonAffiliated withUniversity of Colorado

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Numerous studies have examined the etiology of the association between reading difficulties and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in school-age children, but little is known about the relation between prereading skills and ADHD behaviors prior to the beginning of formal reading instruction. A population-based sample of 809 pairs of preschool twins completed an extensive battery of prereading measures, and the parent of each twin completed an ADHD rating scale. Phenotypic analyses revealed small but significant correlations between DSM-IV inattention ratings and six prereading composite measures, whereas hyperactivity–impulsivity symptoms were not independently associated with any of the prereading scores. Multivariate twin analyses indicated that virtually all of the phenotypic correlation between inattention and prereading performance is attributable to common genetic influences, consistent with results obtained in studies of older twins. Although additional research is needed to test alternative causal models in children younger than five years old, these results are most consistent with the hypothesis that reading difficulties and inattention symptoms are attributable to common genetic influences.


ADHD DSM-IV Dyslexia Genes Preschool Reading