Children who have a harder time paying attention at the age of seven are at greater risk for doing poorly on their high school exams, according to a new study by researchers at the Universities of Nottingham and Bristol in the U.K.
In fact, each one-point increase in inattention symptoms increased the risk of worse academic outcomes across the entire sample.
The study looked at more than 11,000 children as part of the research which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The findings of the research have important implications for parents, teachers and clinicians.
“Teachers and parents should be aware of the long-term academic impact of behaviors such as inattention and distractibility. The impact applies across the whole spectrum of scores at the population level and is not just confined to those scoring above a cut-off or at the extreme end,” said study leader Kapil Sayal, Ph.D., professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham.
“Prevention and intervention strategies are key and, in the teenage years, could include teaching students time-management and organizational skills, minimizing distractions and helping them to prioritize their work and revision.”
The researchers analyzed behavioral and academic data of participants in Children of the 90s, a population-based study at The University of Bristol.
When the children were seven years old, their parents and teachers filled out detailed questionnaires designed to assess a variety of different behaviors including inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity, and oppositional/defiant problems. This information was compared with the children’s academic achievements by looking at their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) scores at age 16.
After adjusting for factors such as IQ, parental education and social class, the researchers found that for every one-point increase in inattention symptoms at age seven, across the whole sample, there was a two to three point reduction in GCSE scores and a six to seven percent increased likelihood of not achieving a minimum level of five ‘good’ GCSE grades (A to C) at age 16.
When the researchers took inattention into account, the study also found that, in boys, oppositional/defiant behaviors at age seven pose an independent risk to academic achievement.
The findings are published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Source: University of Nottingham