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Am J Psychiatry. 2011 Nov;168(11):1164-70. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2011.10121732. Epub 2011 Jul 28.

Childhood trajectories of inattention and hyperactivity and prediction of educational attainment in early adulthood: a 16-year longitudinal population-based study.

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Research Unit on Children's Psychosocial Maladjustment, University of Montreal, Canada.



Literature clearly documents the association between mental health problems, particularly attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and educational attainment. However, inattention and hyperactivity are generally not considered independently from each other in prospective studies. The aim of the present study was to differentiate the unique, additive, or interactive contributions of inattention and hyperactivity symptoms to educational attainment.


The authors randomly selected 2,000 participants from a representative sample of Canadian children and estimated developmental trajectories of inattention and hyperactivity between the ages of 6 and 12 years using yearly assessments. High school graduation status, at age 22-23 years, was obtained from official records.


Four trajectories of inattention and four trajectories of hyperactivity were observed between the ages of 6 and 12 years. After controlling for hyperactivity and other confounding variables, a high inattention trajectory (compared with low inattention) strongly predicted not having a high school diploma at 22-23 years of age (odds ratio=7.66, 95% confidence interval [CI]=5.06-11.58). To a lesser extent, a declining or rising trajectory of inattention also made a significant contribution (odds ratios of 2.67 [95% CI=1.90-3.75] and 3.87 [95% CI=2.75-5.45], respectively). Hyperactivity was not a significant predictor once inattention was taken into account.


Inattention rather than hyperactivity during elementary school significantly predicts long-term educational attainment. Children with attention problems, regardless of hyperactivity, need preventive intervention early in their development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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