Development and Psychopathology

Research Article

Do maternal attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms exacerbate or ameliorate the negative effect of child attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms on parenting?

Lamprini Psychogioua1, Dave M. Daleya2, Margaret J. Thompsona1 and Edmund J. S. Sonuga-Barkea1a3 c1

a1 University of Southampton

a2 University of Wales

a3 New York University


The impact of similarity in parent and child characteristics on the quality of parenting is underresearched. The current study examined the interaction between mother and child attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms on parenting. Two hypotheses were tested: the similarity-fit hypothesis, which predicted that parent and child similarity will improve parenting, and the similarity-misfit hypothesis, which predicted the opposite. Study 1 examined the associations between maternal and child ADHD symptoms and child-specific rearing attitudes of 95 mothers with school-aged children. In Study 2 this analysis was extended to more objective observer-rated mother–child interaction and maternal expressed emotion in 192 mothers of preschool children. Child ADHD symptoms were associated with negative maternal comments and maternal ADHD symptoms with negative expressed emotion. In both studies maternal ADHD symptoms appeared to ameliorate the effects of child ADHD symptoms on negative parenting. Parental response to children with high ADHD symptoms was more positive and affectionate when the mother also had high ADHD symptoms. The results support the similarity-fit hypothesis and highlight the importance of considering both child and maternal ADHD symptoms in studies of parenting.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Edmund J. S. Sonuga-Barke, University of Southampton, Developmental Brain–Behaviour Unit, School of Psychology, Highfield Campus, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK; E-mail: