Students with attention problems can fall behind their peers, even if their problems are only mild, according to a study in Learning and Individual Differences.
The researchers studied 46,369 children in 1,812 English primary schools. Children’s early reading and math were assessed at the start of school. Rating scales were completed by class teachers at the end of their first year, with nine items related to inattention, six items to hyperactivity, and three items to impulsivity. English and math achievement were measured using standardized tests.
- There was a strong negative association between inattention and achievement. If a child met one additional criterion on the nine-point scale related to inattention, their progress toward math and English achievement at age 11 was 0.1 standard deviations below that of their peers of similar deprivation and the same sex.
- A child meeting all nine inattention criteria was almost one standard deviation lower in English and math than a child meeting no criteria.
- Impulsivity was associated with an academic advantage, although the effect size was much smaller than for inattention. If all three impulsivity criteria were met, the advantage amounted to 0.15 and 0.12 standard deviations difference in math and English respectively.
- Hyperactivity was weakly negatively related to achievement, although the association was not statistically significant.
The findings suggest that children with quite modest levels of inattention are at risk of poor academic outcomes, which adds to current knowledge. Such children could be identified by class teachers and could benefit from appropriate school-based interventions.
Source: Merrell, C., Sayal, K., Tymms, P., & Kasim, A. (2017). A longitudinal study of the association between inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity and children’s academic attainment at age 11. Learning and Individual Differences, 53, 156–161.