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J Abnorm Child Psychol. 1981 Mar;9(1):55-64.

Hyperactivity and pediatrician diagnoses, parental ratings, specific cognitive abilities, and laboratory measures.


Children diagnosed as hyperactive and treated for hyperactivity by private pediatricians were compared to a large unselected sample of children on parental ratings of behavioral problems (Conners Symptoms Rating Questionnaire), laboratory measures (a week-long assessment of locomotion as measured by pedometers, sustained attention, selective attention, fidgeting, and aggressiveness), and 10 tests of specific cognitive abilities (verbal reasoning, spatial reasoning, memory, and perceptual speed). Test-retest reliability was obtained for all measures. The results indicated that pediatrician diagnoses of hyperactivity are related to parental ratings but not to laboratory assessments. Diagnoses by private pediatricians may include more heterogeneous and nonspecific behavioral problems than diagnoses made in most research contexts. Pediatrician diagnoses were related to deficits in specific cognitive abilities, most notably perceptual speed and verbal ability. Hyperactivity as diagnosed by private pediatricians may reflect deficits in skills necessary to pace oneself appropriately in school-related tasks. In general, these results suggest that the criteria and methods used to diagnose hyperactivity deserve greater attention.

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