Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder dimensionality: the reliable 'g' and the elusive 's' dimensions

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Wagner, Flavia
Martel, Michelle M.
Cogo-Moreira, Hugo [UNIFESP]
Moreira Maia, Carlos Renato
Pan, Pedro Mario [UNIFESP]
Rohde, Luis Augusto
Salum, Giovanni Abrahao
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The best structural model for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms remains a matter of debate. The objective of this study is to test the fit and factor reliability of competing models of the dimensional structure of ADHD symptoms in a sample of randomly selected and high-risk children and pre-adolescents from Brazil. Our sample comprised 2512 children aged 6-12 years from 57 schools in Brazil. The ADHD symptoms were assessed using parent report on the development and well-being assessment (DAWBA). Fit indexes from confirmatory factor analysis were used to test unidimensional, correlated, and bifactor models of ADHD, the latter including "g" ADHD and "s" symptom domain factors. Reliability of all models was measured with omega coefficients. A bifactor model with one general factor and three specific factors (inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity) exhibited the best fit to the data, according to fit indices, as well as the most consistent factor loadings. However, based on omega reliability statistics, the specific inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity dimensions provided very little reliable information after accounting for the reliable general ADHD factor. Our study presents some psychometric evidence that ADHD specific ("s") factors might be unreliable after taking common ("g" factor) variance into account. These results are in accordance with the lack of longitudinal stability among subtypes, the absence of dimension-specific molecular genetic findings and non-specific effects of treatment strategies. Therefore, researchers and clinicians might most effectively rely on the "g" ADHD to characterize ADHD dimensional phenotype, based on currently available symptom items.
European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. New York, v. 25, n. 1, p. 83-90, 2016.