Familial transmission of Continuous Performance Test behavior: attentional and impulsive response characteristics

J Gen Psychol. 2003 Jan;130(1):5-21. doi: 10.1080/00221300309601271.


Continuous Performance Tests (CPTs) provide information on attentional processing and impulsive behavior. The results of previous research that used self-report measures have provided evidence for familial transmission (through genetic and/or environmental influences) of impulsive characteristics. The authors of the present study examined whether the impulsive behavioral parameters that are measured by the CPT also share familial relationships. The researchers asked 26 healthy parent-adolescent pairs to complete the Immediate and Delayed Memory Tasks (IMT/DMT; D. M. Dougherty, 1999; D. M. Dougherty, D. M. Marsh, & C. W. Mathias, 2002), a modified CPT (B. A. Cornblatt, N. J. Risch, G. Faris, D. Friedman, & L. Erlenmeyer-Kimling, 1988; H. E. Rosvold, A. Mirsky, I. Sarason, E. D. Breansome, Jr., & L. H. Beck, 1956), and the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS; J. H. Patton, M. S. Stanford, & E. S. Barratt, 1995), a self-report measure. The main findings can be summarized as follows: (a) commission errors (but not correct detections) on the IMT and DMT were correlated between parents and their adolescent children, (b) adolescents emitted a higher proportion of commission errors than did their parents, and (c) self-reported impulsivity (i.e., BIS) was correlated with commission errors for parents, but not for adolescents. The findings of this study support the use of an objective behavioral measure of impulsivity to assess familial relationships of impulsivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / diagnosis
  • Impulsive Behavior / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychological Tests*