Early-childhood attention skills help predict long-term academic success better than IQ, socioemotional skills, or socioeconomic status

Posted on August 3, 2016

Which early child characteristics predict long-term academic achievement and educational attainment? Research has focused on the role of early academic skills, learning enhancing behaviors, and socioemotional competencies as precursors of academic success. Identifying the relative contribution of each to children's long-term academic achievement is important as it can inform the skills on which early education programs should focus.

As part of this study, nearly 400 children were followed from the time they began first grade until they were in their mid-20s. Early reading and math skills were measured as they began school, teacher ratings of their attention skills during first grade, and peer ratings of how well liked they were during first grade. These early child characteristics were to predict academic outcomes after elementary school, across middle school, high school graduation, and years of education completed by young adulthood. Other important characteristics that would be expected to predict these outcomes, e.g., IQ and socioeconomic status were also taken into account.

At the end of 5th grade, children with greater teacher-rated attention difficulties in 1st grades had significantly lower reading skills and significantly lower school grades. Children who were less popular with peers in first grades also had significantly lower grades. Not surprisingly, lower reading scores entering 1st grade predicted poorer reading achievement after 5th grade; similar findings were evident for math. Early reading and math achievement scores did not predict grades, however.

Early attention problems also predicted lower grades during middle school; this effect operated thru the adverse impact of early attention problem on 5th grade grades. Similarly, children's peer popularity in 1st grade also predicted middle school grades; as with attention difficulties, this effect operated thru the impact of early popularity on grades during 5th grade. In contrast, early reading and math achievement scores did not predict middle school grades.

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Category(s):Child Development

Source material from Sharp Brains


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