Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 729–739 | Cite as

Pathways from Birth Weight to ADHD Symptoms through Fluid Reasoning in Youth with or without Intellectual Disability

  • Julia E. Morgan
  • Steve S. Lee
  • Sandra K. Loo
  • Joshua W. Yuhan
  • Bruce L. Baker


Although individual differences in fluid reasoning reliably mediate predictions of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms from birth weight in youth with typical cognitive development (TD), it is unknown if this indirect effect operates similarly in the development of ADHD symptoms secondary to intellectual disability (ID). Thus, we evaluated mediation by fluid reasoning in a longitudinal sample of 163 youth (45% female) with (n = 52) or without (n = 111) ID who were followed prospectively from age 5 to age 13. At age 9, youth completed the Arithmetic subtest of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, a measure of fluid reasoning. At ages 9 and 13, mothers and teachers separately rated youth ADHD symptoms and mothers completed a diagnostic interview. Mediation was tested via path analysis with bootstrapped confidence intervals, and moderated mediation estimated whether indirect effects differed between ID and TD youth or based on youth IQ. Controlling for demographic factors and age 9 ADHD symptoms, age 9 Arithmetic mediated birth weight and multi-method/informant age 13 ADHD symptoms, such that birth weight positively predicted Arithmetic, which negatively predicted ADHD symptoms. Neither ID status nor IQ moderated the observed indirect effect through Arithmetic, suggesting that it was similar for ID and TD youth as well as across the range of youth IQs. These findings support previous evidence that fluid reasoning, as measured by Arithmetic, may causally mediate birth weight and ADHD symptoms, and suggest that this pathway operates similarly with respect to the development of ADHD symptoms in youth with ID.


ADHD Intellectual disability Birth weight Fluid reasoning Mediation 



This paper was based on the activities of the Collaborative Family Study, supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, grant number 34879-1459 (Principal Investigators: Bruce L. Baker, Jan Blacher, Keith Crnic). We are indebted to our staff and doctoral student colleagues, as well as the children, parents, and teachers who participated in this research. We also thank Barbara Caplan, M.A., for her consultation on this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia E. Morgan
    • 1
  • Steve S. Lee
    • 1
  • Sandra K. Loo
    • 2
  • Joshua W. Yuhan
    • 1
  • Bruce L. Baker
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUCLALos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human BehaviorUCLALos AngelesUSA

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