Objective: Evidence suggests that there is substantial comorbidity between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and major depressive disorder in childhood and adolescence. This study aims to investigate the degree to which etiological factors are shared between the symptoms of these significantly heritable disorders.
Method: A twin study design was used to determine to what extent the covariation between the traits of ADHD and depression is genetically or environmentally mediated, based on parental reports. A general community sample of 645 twin pairs aged 5 to 17 years from the Cardiff Study of All Wales and North England Twins project took part in the study. Parent-rated measures of hyperactivity/inattention (Abbreviated Conners Hyperactivity subscale) and depression (Short Mood and Feelings Questionnaire).
Results: Phenotypes derived from the scales were significantly correlated in both boys and girls. Bivariate structural equation modeling revealed a large overlap in underlying genetic factors (boys, rA = 0.77; girls, rA = 0.67) along with a smaller influence of nonshared environment.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that there are common genes conferring liability to both hyperactive/inattentive and depressive traits in children and adolescents. This has implications for future molecular genetic research into ADHD and major depressive disorder. Additionally, it indicates that the comorbid clinical presentation of these disorders may reflect a common genetic pathway.