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Reduced emotional empathy in adults with subclinical ADHD: Evidence from the empathy and systemizing quotient

Groen, Y., den Heijer, A. E., Fuermaier, A. B. M., Althaus, M. & Tucha, O. 23-Aug-2017 In : ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders.

Research output: Scientific - peer-reviewArticle

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Studies in children with ADHD suggest impairments in social cognitive functions, whereas studies in adults with ADHD are scarce and inconclusive. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between ADHD traits and self-reported social cognitive style in a sample of adults from the general population. For this purpose, a community sample of 685 adults filled out online self-report questionnaires about ADHD symptoms (ADHD Rating Scale, ARS), social cognitive functioning and friendships. The Empathy Quotient (EQ) with the subscales Cognitive Empathy (CE), Emotional Empathy (EE) and Social Skills (SS), and the Systemizing Quotient (SQ) were included for measuring social cognitive style and the Friendship Questionnaire (FQ) for the quality of friendships. Participants who met the DSM-5 criteria on the ARS ('subclinical ADHD'; n = 56) were compared regarding their social cognitive functioning scores with a control group (n = 56) that was matched for age, sex and student status. With small effect sizes, the subclinical ADHD group showed reduced EE scores on the EQ and a more male social cognitive profile. This result was not influenced by sex or ADHD subtype. This study points to a relationship between traits of ADHD and the emotional aspect of empathy, whereas more complex aspects of empathy were unrelated. These findings should be corroborated in clinical patients with ADHD, employing neuropsychological tests rather than self-report questionnaires.

Original languageEnglish
JournalADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders
StateE-pub ahead of print - 23-Aug-2017

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  • Journal Article

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