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PLOS ONE  2013 

Separable Sustained and Selective Attention Factors Are Apparent in 5-Year-Old Children

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082843

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In adults and older children, evidence consistent with relative separation between selective and sustained attention, superimposed upon generally positive inter-test correlations, has been reported. Here we examine whether this pattern is detectable in 5-year-old children from the healthy population. A new test battery (TEA-ChJ) was adapted from measures previously used with adults and older children and administered to 172 5-year-olds. Test-retest reliability was assessed in 60 children. Ninety-eight percent of the children managed to complete all measures. Discrimination of visual and auditory stimuli were good. In a factor analysis, the two TEA-ChJ selective attention tasks (one visual, one auditory) loaded onto a common factor and diverged from the two sustained attention tasks (one auditory, one motor), which shared a common loading on the second factor. This pattern, which suggests that the tests are indeed sensitive to underlying attentional capacities, was supported by the relationships between the TEA-ChJ factors and Test of Everyday Attention for Children subtests in the older children in the sample. It is possible to gain convincing performance-based estimates of attention at the age of 5 with the results reflecting a similar factor structure to that obtained in older children and adults. The results are discussed in light of contemporary models of attention function. Given the potential advantages of early intervention for attention difficulties, the findings are of clinical as well as theoretical interest.


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