Failure to finish high school education is often associated with inattention rather than hyperactivity according to a new study from the University of Montreal. For almost 20 years, lead author of the study, Dr. Jean-Baptiste Pingault, affiliated with Sainte-Justine Mother and Child University Hospital, evaluated data from parents and teachers of 2000 children and concluded that children with attention problems need preventative intervention early in their development.

Teachers evaluated their students’ attention problems, such as inability to concentrate, absentmindedness, tendencies to give up or being easily distracted.

Hyperactivity was defined by behavioral characteristics, such as restlessness, running around, squirming and being fidgety.

According to the research, only 29% of children with attention deficits finished high school compared with 89% of children with no inattention problems.

In contrast, the difference in hyperactive children finishing high school to those who did not was significantly smaller, i.e. 40% and 77% respectively. Inattention still played a highly important role, even after correcting the data for variables, such as socio-economic status and health issues linked to ADHD, which was not the case for hyperactivity.

Dr. Sylvana Côte, leader of the study explained:

“In the school system, children who have attention difficulties are often forgotten because, unlike hyperactive kids, they don’t disturb the class. However, we know that we can train children to pay attention through appropriate activities, and that can help encourage success at school.”

The findings were published after mental health experts started debating on whether or not it would be appropriate to separate hyperactivity and inattention problems in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Pingault commented:

“These two health issues have now been more precisely dissected, and we may now need to define a differentiated type of inattention that is independent from hyperactivity, to improve our understanding of the phenomenon and better tailor interventions.”

Petra Rattue