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Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder traits are a more important predictor of internalising problems than autistic traits

Hargitai L, Livingston L, Waldren L, Robinson R, Jarrold C, Shah P (2023) Nature   

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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are both linked to internalising problems like anxiety and depression. ASD and ADHD also often co-occur, making their individual statistical contributions to internalising disorders difficult to investigate. To address this issue, we explored the unique associations of self-reported ASD traits and ADHD traits with internalising problems using a large general population sample of adults from the United Kingdom (N = 504, 49% male). Classical regression analyses indicated that both ASD traits and ADHD traits were uniquely associated with internalising problems. Dominance and Bayesian analyses confirmed that ADHD traits were a stronger, more important predictor of internalising problems. However, brief depression and anxiety measures may not provide a comprehensive index of internalising problems. Additionally, we focused on recruiting a sample that was representative of the UK population according to age and sex, but not ethnicity, a variable that may be linked to internalising disorders. Nevertheless, our findings indicate that while ASD and ADHD uniquely predict internalising problems, ADHD traits are a more important statistical predictor than ASD traits. We discuss potential mechanisms underlying this pattern of results and the implications for research and clinical practice concerning neurodevelopmental conditions.


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