Researchers develop simple raisin test to forecast a child’s attention and learning capacity.
A simple test using a raisin can predict how well a toddler will perform academically at age eight, according to research conducted at the University of Warwick.
Using just the piece of dried fruit and a plastic cup they have devised a test based on how long a 20-month old child can wait to pick up a raisin in front of them
The toddlers were given a raisin that was placed under an opaque cup within easy reach. After three training runs toddlers were asked to wait until they were told (60 seconds) they could touch and eat the raisin. During the study it was found that those who were born very prematurely were more likely to take the raisin before the allotted time. In a follow on study the academics found that those who couldn’t inhibit their behavior as toddlers weren’t performing as well in school as their full-term peers seven years later.
Senior author, Professor Dieter Wolke, who is based at the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology and at Warwick Medical School, said: “An easy, five-minute raisin game task represents a promising new tool for follow-up assessments to predict attention regulation and learning in preterm and term born children. The results also point to potential innovative avenues to early intervention after preterm birth.”
The study Preterm Toddlers’ Inhibitory Control Abilities Predict Attention Regulation and Academic Achievement at Age 8 Years will be published in the November issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.
Data were collected as part of the prospective Bavarian Longitudinal Study which began in Germany in 1985 and is still underway. During the study, 558 children born at 25 to 41 weeks gestation were assessed for self-control once they were 20 months old. The results of those born preterm 25-38 weeks were compared to those born a healthy full term between 39-41weeks.
Around age eight, the same children were evaluated by a team of psychologists and pediatricians using three different behavior ratings of attention from mothers, psychologists and the whole research team. Academic achievement—including mathematics, reading and spelling/writing—was assessed utilizing standardized tests.
The findings concluded that the lower the gestational age, the lower a toddler’s inhibitory control—and the more likely those children would have poor attention skills and low academic achievement at eight years old
Julia Jaekel, lead author of the study and honorary research fellow at the University of Warwick and assistant professor of child and family studies at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, said: “This new finding is a key piece in the puzzle of long-term underachievement after preterm birth”.
The academics believe that being able to identify cognitive problems early on could result in the development of specialist, tailored education to help prevent these children underachieving at school and later on as adults.
About this neurodevelopment research
Prof. Wolke is based at the University of Warwick, Department of Psychology and at Warwick Medical School which conducts research into areas including epidemiology, trials of complex interventions at individual, family and community levels, and understanding socio-cultural and environmental determinants of mental health and wellbeing.
Source:University of Warwick Image Credit: The image is in the public domain Original Research:Abstract for “Preterm Toddlers’ Inhibitory Control Abilities Predict Attention Regulation and Academic Achievement at Age 8 Years” by Julia Jaekel, Suna Eryigit-Madzwamuse, and Dieter Wolke in Journal of Pediatrics. Published online November 19 2015 doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.10.029
Preterm Toddlers’ Inhibitory Control Abilities Predict Attention Regulation and Academic Achievement at Age 8 Years
Objective To determine if adverse effects of preterm birth on attention and academic abilities at age 8 years are mediated by children’s inhibitory control abilities.
Study design Five hundred fifty-eight children born at 26-41 weeks gestation were studied as part of a prospective geographically defined longitudinal investigation in Germany. Toddlers’ inhibitory control abilities were observed at age 20 months. At 8 years, attention and academic abilities were assessed.
Results Preterm birth negatively affected children’s inhibitory control abilities (B = .25, 95% CI [.11, .39], P < .001) and directly predicted subsequent low attention regulation (B = .23, 95% CI [.07, .38], P < .001) and academic achievement (B = .10, 95% CI [.03, .17], P < .001), after adjusting for other factors. Higher ability to inhibit unwanted behaviors predicted better later attention regulation (B = .24, 95% CI [.07, .41], P < .001) and academic achievement (B = .10, 95% CI [.03, .17], P < .001).
Conclusions The lower a child’s gestational age, the lower the inhibitory control and the more likely that the child had poor attention regulation and low academic achievement. Adverse effects of preterm birth on attention and academic outcomes are partially mediated by toddlers’ inhibitory control abilities. These findings provide new information about the mechanisms linking preterm birth with long-term attention difficulties and academic underachievement.
“Preterm Toddlers’ Inhibitory Control Abilities Predict Attention Regulation and Academic Achievement at Age 8 Years” by Julia Jaekel, Suna Eryigit-Madzwamuse, and Dieter Wolke in Journal of Pediatrics. Published online November 19 2015 doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.10.029