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Early Focused Attention Predicts Outcome for Children Born Prematurely


Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: December 2004 - Volume 25 - Issue 6 - p 399-406

ABSTRACT. There is evidence that early focused, but not casual, attention to objects reflects concurrent regulation of attention and active learning. Because attentional abilities are of particular relevance in preterm infants, we evaluated whether early focused attention would be a better predictor of later attention and cognitive function than casual attention in 55 children born at very low birth weight. Participants were tested initially at 7 months and then at 2, 3, and/or 4/5 years of age. Focused attention was defined as the duration of concentrated examination of objects during independent play. Outcome measures were maternal ratings on standard attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder rating scales and standardized cognitive assessments. Results indicate that 7-month focused attention was predictive of reported problems in hyperactivity/impulsivity at age 4/5 years and cognitive abilities at 2, 3, and 4/5 years; casual attention measures were not related to these outcomes. Early focused attention appears continuous with later attentional skills in at-risk infants and is related to cognitive abilities through the preschool years.

Division of Behavioral Sciences, Department of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Children's Hospital at Montefiore, Bronx, New York

Received March 2004; accepted September 2004.

Address for reprints: Katharine R. Lawson, Ph.D., Fisher Landau Center of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1165 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461; e-mail:

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.