International researchers have discovered that inattentiveness, either with or without attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is linked to declines in academic performance up to 10 years later.
The finding holds true even when a child’s intellectual ability is factored into the analysis.
Investigators note that although grades aren’t everything, academic achievement is clearly an important factor in later career success and financial stability. Educators and parents strive to help children maximize their academic potential and overcome obstacles to academic success.
One factor in academic performance is intellectual ability, and unsurprisingly, numerous studies have found that higher intellectual ability is linked with higher academic performance. However, another factor that can affect academic performance is attentiveness.
Inattentiveness makes it difficult to focus in school and on homework and is often associated with other problems, such as mood disorders and difficulties interacting with other children. As such, helping children to overcome inattentiveness could significantly influence their adult life.
, explains the situation.
“A high number of children are challenged by problems related to inattention,” said Dr. Astri Lundervold, a researcher at the University of Bergen in Norway. “A cluster of these problems is defined as hallmark symptoms of ADHD, but inattentiveness is not restricted to children with a specific diagnosis. Are problems related to inattention something that parents and teachers should address in any child?”
This question inspired Lundervold to investigate the link between inattentiveness and academic performance in a sample containing mostly healthy children in Bergen, Norway.
To make the sample more culturally diverse and inclusive of a larger spectrum of mental health disorders, she collaborated with researchers in America, Dr. Stephen Hinshaw and Jocelyn Meza.
Together, they expanded the study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, to include a sample of girls from another long-term study in Berkeley, Calif., where a large subgroup had been diagnosed with ADHD.
The children were aged from 6-12 when the researchers recruited them and began the study. They assessed the children’s IQ and asked their parents to rate their inattentiveness. Finally, 10 years later, the researchers followed up with the children to see how they had performed in school.
Unsurprisingly, children with higher IQ scores tended to perform better academically. Also, as expected, the children with ADHD showed higher inattentiveness compared with those without, and also performed worse in school.
But the negative effects of inattention on academic performance were not restricted to children with ADHD.
“We found a surprisingly similar effect of early inattention on high school academic achievement across the two samples, an effect that remained even when we adjusted for intellectual ability,” Lundervold said.
Researchers believe the study findings highlight the long-term effects that childhood inattention can have on academic performance.
Therefore, inattention could have significant adverse effects on the academic performance of a variety of children, potentially including those with a high intellectual ability and no ADHD.
So, how can parents help their children to achieve their academic potential, regardless of their IQ or mental health?
“Parents of primary school children showing signs of inattention should ask for help for the child. Remedial strategies and training programs for these children should be available at school, and not just for children with a specific diagnosis,” Lundervold said.
“Parents and teachers could also benefit from training to help address the needs of inattentive children.”