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Child temperament, ADHD, and caregiver strain: exploring relationships in an epidemiological sample.

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  • 1University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville 32610, USA.



To investigate the relationship between child-reported dimensions of temperament and attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as other indicators of child psychopathology, including disruptive disorders, depression, and anxiety. It also examined whether difficult child temperament scores independently predicted caregiver strain.


A school-district-wide, two-phase screening design (response rate 70% for phase 2) identified elementary school children at high risk for ADHD. Two hundred high-risk children and their parents completed standardized instruments to assess child temperament, diagnoses of disruptive disorders, children's symptoms of anxiety and depression, and caregiver strain. Relationships were examined using analysis of variance, correlations, and multivariate prediction models, adjusting for child sociodemographic characteristics and psychopathology. All estimates were weighted for sampling design and differential participation.


Combined subtype ADHD was associated with lower scores on task orientation and higher scores on general activity level. Depressive symptoms correlated significantly with all but one difficult temperament dimension, in a pattern consistent with clinical symptoms of depression. Child temperament did not vary by ADHD treatment status. Among these high-risk children, maternal caregiver strain experiences were increased by male gender, inattention symptoms, and oppositional defiant disorder, but not by difficult temperament scores.


This study provides support for Graham and Stevenson's hypothesis of continuity between specific temperament traits and certain child psychiatric disorders, namely ADHD and depressive disorders.

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