Children with serious attention problems are
three times more likely to experience socio-economic disadvantage
in adulthood, according to
a French study.
The study, published online today by the
British Journal of Psychiatry, finds they are more likely to be
employed in a lower grade job, and are less likely to be educated
to university level.
The research team, led by Dr Cédric Galéra of
the University of Bordeaux, say their study shows that childhood
attention problems appear to be a “potent early risk factor” for
low socio-economic position in adulthood.
The 1,103 study participants were first
assessed during childhood, between the ages of 4 and 16, to
determine if they had any attention problems. The children were
then followed up 18 years later, and were asked to report on their
educational attainment, employment situation and type of
The researchers found that almost half (48%)
of those with high levels of childhood attention problems had a low
socio-economic status in adulthood, and only 14% had a high
socio-economic status. In contrast, 34% of those with low levels of
childhood attention problems had a high socio-economic status.
In addition, 57% of those who had high levels
of childhood attention problems were employed in low-grade
occupations, compared to 34% of those with did not have attention
The researchers believe attention problems
could be linked to socio-economic disadvantage in several ways. Dr
Galéra said: "At an early stage, attention problems are likely to
contribute to academic underachievement, possibly due to the
child’s behavioural symptoms but also to other problems such as
learning disabilities or language disorders. Although attention
problems tend to decrease with age, difficulties with inattention,
poor concentration, distractibility and emotional impulsiveness may
persist into adulthood and lead to poor work performance and
difficulties in relationships with work colleagues."
The researchers say there needs to be more
support for young people with attention problems, both before they
leave school and when entering the job market. Dr Galéra said:
"Vocational assessment and work preparation could be worthwhile for
children with attention problems, and clinicians, parents, teachers
and career counsellors should help youths with attention problems
choose academic and occupational paths that match their strengths
and weaknesses. And occupational adjustments in the workplace could
help people optimise their abilities and minimise
For further information, please
McLoughlin in the Communications Department.
Telephone: 0203 701 2544 or 07738 349070
Galéra C, Bouvard M-P, Lagarde E, Michel G, Touchette E, Fombonne E and Melchior M. Attention problems in childhood and socioeconomic disadvantage 18 years later: the TEMPO cohort. British Journal of Psychiatry, 2012, epub ahead of publication, 10.1192/bjp.bp.111.102491