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Genetic and Environmental Aetiologies of Associations Between Dispositional Mindfulness and ADHD Traits: a Population-Based Twin Study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean child & adolescent psychiatry
Accepted/In press11 Jan 2019


King's Authors


To get additional insight into the phenotype of attentional problems, we examined to what extent genetic and environmental factors explain covariation between lack of dispositional mindfulness and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) traits in youth, and explored the incremental validity of these constructs in predicting life satisfaction. We used data from a UK population-representative sample of adolescent twins (N=1092 pairs) on lack of dispositional mindfulness (Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS)), ADHD traits (Conners’ Parent Rating Scale-Revised (CPRS-R): inattentive (INATT) and hyperactivity/impulsivity (HYP/IMP) symptom dimensions) and life satisfaction (Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale). Twin model fitting analyses were conducted. Phenotypic correlations (rp) between MAAS and CPRS-R (INATT: rp=.18, HYP/IMP: rp=.13) were small, but significant and largely explained by shared genes for INATT (% rp INATT-MAAS due to genes: 93%, genetic correlation rA=.37) and HYP/IMP (% rp HYP/IMP-MAAS due to genes: 81%; genetic correlation rA=.21) with no significant contribution of environmental factors. MAAS, INATT and HYP/IMP significantly and independently predicted life satisfaction. Lack of dispositional mindfulness, assessed as self-reported perceived lapses of attention (MAAS), taps into an aspect of attentional functioning that is phenotypically and genetically distinct from parent-rated ADHD traits. The clinically relevant incremental validity of both scales implicates that MAAS could be used to explore underlying mechanisms of an aspect of attentional functioning that uniquely affects life satisfaction and is not captured by DSM-based ADHD scales. Further future research could identify if lack of dispositional mindfulness and high ADHD traits can be targeted by different therapeutic approaches resulting in different effects on life-satisfaction.

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