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Temperament and Character in Childhood-Onset Neurodevelopmental Disorders (Autism Spectrum Disorders and ADHD)

Chapter in book
Authors Thomas Nilsson
Ola Ståhlberg
Maria Råstam
Danilo Garcia
Henrik Anckarsäter
Published in Personality and Brain Disorders: Associations and Interventions
Pages 101-142
ISBN 978-3-319-90065-0
Publisher Springer
Place of publication Cham, Switzerland
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Psychology
Centre for Ethics, Law, and Mental Health
Pages 101-142
Language en
Keywords ADHD, Autism, Character, Cloninger, Personality, Temperament
Subject categories Psychiatry, Psychology


Neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), express aberrant neurocognitive functions in social communication, flexibility, and executive control from an early age, not seldom casting extensive consequences long into adulthood. They exist along a continuum from severe disorders to broader phenotypes or “shadow syndromes”. In recent years, several studies have assessed the relation between these conditions and associated personality traits in terms of Cloningers’ temperament and character model in both children and adults. The aim has been to clarify to what extent neurodevelopmental challenges are associated with adult personality and elucidate the link between symptom severity and specific personality traits. Findings give support for specific temperaments (previously known as constitutions) with high Novelty Seeking in ADHD and low Reward Dependence with high Harm Avoidance in ASD , while low scores on the character dimensions of Self-Directedness and Cooperativeness is a shared feature of both disorders (and more so the more severe the disorder is). This replicates previous findings of the same character deficits across adult mental disorders, forming a common ground for mental health problems. This pattern is proposed to be a window of opportunity for treatment interventions aiming at enhancing agency, communion, resilience and well-being.

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