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Br J Dev Psychol. 2016 Sep;34(3):371-87. doi: 10.1111/bjdp.12136. Epub 2016 Feb 20.

The heterogeneity of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms and conduct problems: Cognitive inhibition, emotion regulation, emotionality, and disorganized attachment.

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Department of Psychology, Uppsala University, Sweden.
Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Sweden.


This study examined the contributions of several important domains of functioning to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and conduct problems. Specifically, we investigated whether cognitive inhibition, emotion regulation, emotionality, and disorganized attachment made independent and specific contributions to these externalizing behaviour problems from a multiple pathways perspective. The study included laboratory measures of cognitive inhibition and disorganized attachment in 184 typically developing children (M age = 6 years, 10 months, SD = 1.7). Parental ratings provided measures of emotion regulation, emotionality, and externalizing behaviour problems. Results revealed that cognitive inhibition, regulation of positive emotion, and positive emotionality were independently and specifically related to ADHD symptoms. Disorganized attachment and negative emotionality formed independent and specific relations to conduct problems. Our findings support the multiple pathways perspective on ADHD, with poor regulation of positive emotion and high positive emotionality making distinct contributions to ADHD symptoms. More specifically, our results support the proposal of a temperamentally based pathway to ADHD symptoms. The findings also indicate that disorganized attachment and negative emotionality constitute pathways specific to conduct problems rather than to ADHD symptoms.


attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; cognitive inhibition; conduct problems; disorganized attachment; emotion regulation; emotionality

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