Personality Traits Elucidate Sex Differences in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Comorbidity During Early Childhood

  • Michelle M. Martel
  • Monica L. Gremillion
  • Jennifer L. Tackett


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is highly comorbid with other childhood disorders, and there are striking sex differences in this comorbidity, particularly during early childhood. For example, boys with ADHD are more likely to exhibit comorbid disruptive behavior and neurodevelopmental disorders, compared to girls, during early childhood. Yet, explanations for these well-established sex differences remain in short supply. The current study evaluated the novel hypothesis that personality traits may serve as intermediate phenotypes that help explain sex differences in common ADHD comorbidity profiles during early childhood. Study participants were 109 children between the ages of 3 and 6 and their primary caregivers and teachers/daycare providers, recruited from the community and over-recruited for ADHD-related problems. Primary caregivers completed the Child Behavior Checklist, and teachers/daycare providers completed the Teacher Report Form as a measure of child behavior problems. Examiners completed the California Q-Sort as a measure of child personality traits. Moderated mediation analyses suggested that personality traits explain associations between ADHD and oppositional-defiance, aggression, and language problems in a sex-specific manner. While high neuroticism mediated associations between ADHD and oppositional-defiance in girls, disagreeableness mediated associations between ADHD and aggression and low conscientiousness mediated associations between ADHD and neurodevelopmental language problems in boys. Sex differences in trait-psychopathology associations may help explain sex differences in comorbidity profiles with possible implications for child assessment and personalized early intervention.


ADHD Aggression Temperament 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle M. Martel
    • 1
  • Monica L. Gremillion
    • 1
  • Jennifer L. Tackett
    • 2
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA

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