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High intelligence and the risk of ADHD and other psychopathology.

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Published:18th Oct 2017
Author: Rommelse N, Antshel K, Smeets S, Greven C, Hoogeveen L, Faraone SV et al.
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Ref.:Br J Psychiatry. 2017. pii: bjp.bp.116.184382.

Background: High intelligence may be associated with positive (adaptive, desired) outcomes, but may also come with disadvantages.

Aims: To contribute empirically to the debate concerning whether a trade-off in IQ scores exists in relation to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and related problems, suggesting that high intelligence – like low intelligence – increases the risk of ADHD.

Method: Curves of the relation between IQ score and ADHD problems were fitted to questionnaire data (parent, teacher, self-report) in a population-based study of 2221 children and adolescents aged 10–12 years. Externalising and internalising problems were included for comparison purposes.

Results: Higher IQ score was most strongly related to fewer attention problems, with more rater discrepancy in the high v. average IQ range. Attention problems – but only minimally hyperactivity/impulsivity problems – predicted functional impairment at school, also in the higher IQ range.

Conclusions: Attention problems in highly intelligent children are exceptional and affect school performance; they are therefore a reason for clinical concern.


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