Emerging research from the University of Montreal suggests that inattention, rather than hyperactivity, is the critical indicator for high school success and graduation.
“Children with attention problems need preventative intervention early in their development,” explained lead author Dr. Jean-Baptiste Pingault.
Pingault and his research team came to their conclusion after looking at data collected from the parents and teachers of 2,000 children over a period of almost 20 years.
For this study, teachers were asked to evaluate children displaying an inability to concentrate, absentmindedness, or a tendency to give up or be easily distracted.
Teachers were also asked to identify children who were hyperactive as defined by behavior such as restlessness, running around, squirming and being fidgety.
The researchers found that only 29 percent of children with attention problems finished high school compared to 89 percent of children who did not manifest these inattention problems.
When it came to hyperactivity, the difference was smaller: 40 percent finished high school vs. 77 percent who did not.
After correcting the data for other influencing factors, such as socioeconomic status and health issues that are correlated with ADHD, inattention still made a highly significant contribution which was not the case for hyperactivity.
“In the school system, children who have attention difficulties are often forgotten because, unlike hyperactive kids, they don’t disturb the class,” said Dr. Sylvana Côte, who led the study.
“However, we know that we can train children to pay attention through appropriate activities, and that can help encourage success at school.”
Mental health experts have begun to debate whether or not it would be appropriate to separate hyperactivity and inattention problems in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
“These two health issues have now been more precisely dissected, and we may now need to define a differentiated type of inattention that is independent from hyperactivity, to improve our understanding of the phenomenon and better tailor interventions,” Pingault said.
The study will be published in the American Journal of Psychiatry on Nov. 1, 2011.
Source: University of Montreal