Kindergarten Has Lifelong Payoff

Attentiveness in kindergarten accurately predicts lifelong attention skills

(RxWiki News) By the time a child enters kindergarten at around five years of age, certain learning and social skills have already been established. But autonomy, control and self-confidence during this time has big effects for life.

How well kindergarten children work both alone and with others, their attentiveness and ability to follow direction, all accurately predict their lifelong work-oriented skills.

"Foster good attention skills at an early age."

Dr. Linda Pagani, a professor and researcher at the University of Montreal and CHU Sainte-Justine, conducted a study in which elementary school teachers observed and recorded the attention skills of more than a thousand kindergarten children.

The kids all attended school in some of Montreal's poorest neighborhoods, and a carefully constructed observational scale was used to score their attentiveness.

After kindergarten, from grades one through six, the children continued to be rated by teachers on how well their worked alone and with classmates, their ability to follow directions and rules, and their levels of self-control and self-confidence.

Over time, Pagani and her research team identified three groups of children: those with low, medium and high classroom engagement.

Aggressive children, boys, and kids with lower cognitive skills were all much more likely to belong in the low engagement category. The level of attentiveness accurately predicted the development of the work-oriented skills in the school children.

The analyses took into account various explanations for the relationship that was found between attention in kindergarten and later classroom engagement. “Children who are more likely to work autonomously and harmoniously with fellow classmates, with good self-control and confidence, and who follow directions and rules are more likely to continue such productive behaviors into the adult workplace," said Dr. Pagani. "In child psychology, we call this the developmental evolution of work-oriented skills, from childhood to adulthood.”

Dr. Pagani added that important life risks are associated with attention deficits in childhood, including high-school dropout, unemployment and substance abuse. The research findings make a compelling case for early identification and treatment of attention problems in young children.

The research paper was published in the January, 2012 issue of the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 

Review Date: 
January 31, 2012