Inattentive students can fall behind

Students with attention problems can fall behind their peers, even if their problems are only mild, according to a new study in Learning and Individual Differences.

The researchers studied 46,369 children in 1,812 English primary schools. Children’s early reading and mathematics 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 mathematics attainment was measured using the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6) statutory tests.

There was a strong negative association between inattention and attainment. If a child met one additional criterion on the nine-point scale related to inattention, their progress toward mathematics and English attainment 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 mathematics 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 mathematics and English respectively. Hyperactivity was weakly negatively related to attainment 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: A longitudinal study of the association between inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity and children’s academic attainment at age 11 (2016), Learning and Individual Differences.