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Attention Problems in Kindergarten Could Spell Long-Term Academic Trouble
Date:5/26/2009

They have bigger impact than issues such as depression, anxiety, study finds

TUESDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- Children with attention problems in kindergarten often struggle academically right through high school, a new study suggests.

The study, led by Joshua Breslau of the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine, is among the first to show how attention problems early in a child's life can shape and predict future academic performance, he said.

"The evidence suggests what many educators may already suspect, that kids with attention problems don't learn as much," said Breslau, an anthropologist and epidemiologist. "This starts very early for many children and is cumulative."

The study used data collected by Breslau's mother, Naomi Breslau, an epidemiologist at Michigan State University, for research she had conducted in the 1980s and '90s. In that study, researchers followed more than 800 children from diverse racial and socio-economic backgrounds in the Detroit area, examining the impact of low birth weight on psychological development.

The UC Davis researchers used information collected on 693 of these children, from ages 6 through 17. They zeroed in on three types of behaviors as scored by their teachers -- "internalizing" behaviors such as anxiety and depression; "externalizing" behaviors such as acting out and breaking rules; and attention problems such as restlessness and the inability to focus on one activity.

Compared with other childhood psychiatric problems, including depression, anxiety and disruptive behavior, Breslau and his team found that attention problems -- including symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) -- had the strongest impact on a child's future academic success. Signs of ADHD often begin showing up in kindergarten, a child's first school experience that demands a higher level of learning and cognitive skills.

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