Individual differences in tendencies to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and emotionality: empirical evidence in young healthy adults from Germany and China

  • Jennifer WernickeEmail author
  • Mei Li
  • Peng Sha
  • Min Zhou
  • Cornelia Sindermann
  • Benjamin Becker
  • Keith M. Kendrick
  • Christian Montag
Original Article


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity but also by negative emotionality. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether subclinical ADHD tendencies are associated with negative emotionality in healthy adult samples. The present study is of special interest since it investigated negative emotionality with a questionnaire anchored in Neuroscience Theory—the Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales (ANPS). Furthermore, through the investigation of samples in two countries, namely Germany and China, the study aims to replicate the results across different cultures. German (n = 377; age: M = 23.25, SD = 8.47; 117 males) and Chinese (n = 389; age: M = 20.74, SD = 2.47; 279 males) subjects completed ANPS (primary emotional traits) and ASRS (ADHD tendencies) questionnaires in an online survey. Principal component analysis of the ANPS revealed one factor for negative emotionality and one factor for positive emotionality. Partial correlations between ANPS and ASRS (controlled for age) were conducted separately for nation and gender. The same correlation patterns between ADHD tendencies and negative emotionality could be found in male and female German/Chinese participants (range r= .189 to r = .352). Higher negative emotionality was always significantly associated with more inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, or combined tendencies. However, significant negative correlations between ADHD tendencies and positive emotionality could only be observed in Chinese males (range r = − .264 to r = − .296). The results are in line with former findings in children and show that also in healthy adults, associations between negative emotionality and ADHD tendencies are robustly visible. The results were independent of the cultural background, indicating a general association between ADHD tendencies and negative emotionality, even in healthy adults.


ADHD Emotionality Primary emotional traits Replication Germany China 


Authors’ contributions

JW and CM designed the present study. JW drafted the present manuscript and conducted the statistical analysis. CS double-checked the statistical analysis. PS and MZ have been responsible for the Chinese translation process of the ASRS questionnaire. JW and ML conducted the data collection in Beijing, whereas JW and CS collected the German data and the data from Chengdu. BB and KMK critically revised the manuscript. The final version of the manuscript was approved by all authors.


JW and CS are Stipend of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes). CM is supported by the German Research Foundation (MO 2363/3-2).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants

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 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

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

Supplementary material

12402_2018_266_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (586 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 587 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Molecular Psychology, Institute of Psychology and Education, Faculty of Engineering, Computer Science and PsychologyUlm UniversityUlmGermany
  2. 2.Student Counseling CenterBeijing University of Civil Engineering and ArchitectureBeijingChina
  3. 3.School of Journalism and CommunicationSouthwest UniversityChongqingChina
  4. 4.Institute of Medical Statistics, Informatics and EpidemiologyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany
  5. 5.The Clinical Hospital of Chengdu Brain Science Institute, MOE Key Laboratory for NeuroinformationUniversity of Electronic Science and Technology of ChinaChengduChina

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