Updated 23 December 2015

Early attention problem forms pattern

Children who begin primary school with attention problems are likely to have poorer academic achievement scores through high school, study findings suggest.


Children who begin primary school with attention problems are likely to have poorer academic achievement scores through high school, study findings suggest.

Previous research linked poorer academic achievement through the end of primary school, when children are about 11 or 12 years old, to attention problems such as difficulty concentrating, sitting still, and completing tasks when younger, Dr. Joshua Breslau and colleagues note.

The current study shows "this pattern persists through the end of high school," Breslau, of the University of California, Davis, told Reuters Health.

Breslau and colleagues gathered IQ and behavioral data from 693 ethnically diverse children who were entering school at 6-years old. Forty-seven percent of the students were male, the investigators report in the journal Pediatrics.

When the students were 17-years old and had reached the end of high school, the investigators assessed their scores on reading and math achievement tests.

Analyses to determine the impact of earlier behavior problems on later academic achievement showed that attention problems, signs of withdrawal, anxiety, or depression, or displaying aggressive or delinquent behaviors when entering school at age 6 were all associated with lower achievement in high school.

Having one of these behavior problems "means that a kid is more likely to have one or both of the others," Breslau explained.

However, when the researchers examined all three behavior problems together they found only the attention problems accounted for lower achievement scores in reading and math, suggesting that later problems with achievement can be predicted by early attention problems.

"Attention problems that can have adverse academic consequences are identifiable early on," Breslau concluded. He therefore suggests parents "consider their child's attention skills as they plan their educational strategy."

(SOURCE: Pediatrics, June 2009)

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Dr. Shabeer Ahmed Jeeva is a specialist psychiatrist who has been practicing child and adult psychiatry for 30 years. He has vast experience in treating ADHD, and is also an ADHD patient himself. Dr. Jeeva trained and practiced in Canada as a child and adult psychiatrist and had lived there for 25 years. He had attended medical school at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland (1970-1976). His professional experience and accreditation includes: Psychiatric residency at the University of Ottawa (Canada), Child Psychiatry fellowship at the University of Ottawa (Canada), Diploma in Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa (Canada), and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Canada.

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