Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Support for an independent familial segregation of executive and intelligence endophenotypes in ADHD families

N. N. J. Rommelsea1 c1, M. E. Altinka2, J. Oosterlaana1, C. J. M. Buschgensa2, J. Buitelaara2 and J. A. Sergeanta1

a1 Department of Clinical Neuropsychology, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

a2 Department of Psychiatry, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands


Background Impairments in executive functioning (EF) and intelligence quotient (IQ) are frequently observed in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The aim of this paper was twofold: first, to examine whether both domains are viable endophenotypic candidates for ADHD and second to investigate whether deficits in both domains tend to co-segregate within families.

Method A large family-based design was used, including 238 ADHD families (545 children) and 147 control families (271 children). Inhibition, visuospatial and verbal working memory, and performance and verbal IQ were analysed.

Results Children with ADHD, and their affected and non-affected siblings were all impaired on the EF measures and verbal IQ (though unimpaired on performance IQ) and all measures correlated between siblings. Correlations and sibling cross-correlations were not significant between EF and IQ, though they were significant between the measures of one domain. Group differences on EF were not explained by group differences on IQ and vice versa. The discrepancy score between EF and IQ correlated between siblings, indicating that siblings resembled each other in their EF–IQ discrepancy instead of having generalized impairments across both domains. Siblings of probands who had an EF but not IQ impairment, showed a comparable disproportionate lower EF score in relation to IQ score. The opposite pattern was not significant.

Conclusions The results supported the viability of EF and IQ as endophenotypic candidates for ADHD. Most findings support an independent familial segregation of both domains. Within EF, similar familial factors influenced inhibition and working memory. Within IQ, similar familial factors influenced verbal and performance IQ.

(Received June 11 2007)

(Revised November 06 2007)

(Accepted December 18 2007)

(Online publication February 08 2008)


c1 Address for correspondence: N. N. J. Rommelse, M.S., VU University Amsterdam, Department of Clinical Neuropsychology, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands. (Email: