Offspring ADHD as a risk factor for parental marital problems: Controls for genetic and environmental confounds

Alice C. Schermerhorn, Brian M. DOnofrio, Wendy S. Slutske, Robert E. Emery, Eric Turkheimer, K. Paige Harden, Andrew C. Heath, Nicholas G. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background: Previous studies have found that child attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with more parental marital problems. However, the reasons for this association are unclear. The association might be due to genetic or environmental confounds that contribute to both marital problems and ADHD. Method: Data were drawn from the Australian Twin Registry, including 1,296 individual twins, their spouses, and offspring. We studied adult twins who were discordant for offspring ADHD. Using a discordant twin pairs design, we examined the extent to which genetic and environmental confounds, as well as measured parental and offspring characteristics, explain the ADHD-marital problems association. Results: Offspring ADHD predicted parental divorce and marital conflict. The associations were also robust when comparing differentially exposed identical twins to control for unmeasured genetic and environmental factors, when controlling for measured maternal and paternal psychopathology, when restricting the sample based on timing of parental divorce and ADHD onset, and when controlling for other forms of offspring psychopathology. Each of these controls rules out alternative explanations for the association. Conclusion: The results of the current study converge with those of prior research in suggesting that factors directly associated with offspring ADHD increase parental marital problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)700-713
Number of pages14
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • behavioral genetics
  • divorce
  • marital conflict


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