Trait mechanisms in youth with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Michelle M. Martel, Joel T. Nigg, Richard E. Lucas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Relations of temperament and personality traits within children and adolescents with ADHD and non-ADHD controls were examined. A two-process structure was hypothesized involving top-down effortful and bottom-up reactive response tendencies. Top-down processes were hypothesized to relate to inattentive ADHD symptoms, whereas bottom-up processes were hypothesized to relate to hyperactive-impulsive ADHD symptoms. Each hypothesis was tested in a sample of 179 children age 7-13 (113 boys; 107 ADHD) and then replicated in 184 adolescents age 14-17 (109 boys; 87 ADHD). All families completed a multistage diagnostic process. Youth completed laboratory measures of cognitive control, and parents completed trait ratings. Traits examined in the current study included effortful control, reactive control, resiliency, negative emotionality, neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Correlational relations among traits were inconclusive, but external correlations with cognitive tasks and ADHD symptoms were interpretable within the hypothesized two-process framework. Results provide partial support for a distinction between effortful and reactive traits and suggest this distinction is useful in relation to understanding ADHD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)895-913
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by NIH National Institute of Mental Health Grant R01-MH63146 to Joel Nigg. Martel was supported by NIH F31 MH075533.


  • ADHD
  • Adolescents
  • Children
  • Personality
  • Temperament
  • Traits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Psychology (all)


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