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IES Grant

Title: Longitudinal Evaluation of Sluggish Cognitive Tempo: Identifying Mechanisms of Educational Impairment
Center: NCER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Becker, Stephen Awardee: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
Program: Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2020 – 06/30/2024) Award Amount: $1,399,985
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A200028

Purpose: Some children display a unique pattern of attentional difficulties referred to as sluggish cognitive tempo (SCT), which includes symptoms such as excessive daydreaming, mental confusion, seeming to be "in a fog," and slowed behavior/thinking. SCT symptoms are associated with significant academic and social impairments. Almost all research linking SCT to impairments has been cross-sectional. Few longitudinal studies have been conducted to understand how SCT symptoms relate to functional impairment, and no studies have examined the developmental trajectories of children recruited with elevated SCT symptoms. Longitudinal research is necessary to examine the mechanisms that link SCT symptoms to functional impairments. Accordingly, the primary objectives of this research proposal are to evaluate the longitudinal impact and mechanisms in children with and without SCT.

Project Activities: The research team will prospectively follow a group of children enrolled in second through fifth grades in an ongoing study through fifth through eighth grades, collecting a battery of assessments at three new timepoints evenly spaced 1 year apart. The team will recruit an additional cohort to increase the sample size for longitudinal analyses. Researchers will use longitudinal structural equation modeling will be used to examine the developmental trajectories of academic and social impairment.

Products: The research team will produce peer-reviewed publications and disseminate their findings via conference proceedings.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Participating students will be recruited from elementary and intermediate/middle schools in Ohio and Kentucky.

Sample: Approximately 250 elementary school students (125 students with elevated SCT, 125 matched comparison students without SCT) will participate in this study. Participants will not be excluded based on any demographic characteristic (such as race/ethnicity or socio-economic status).

Factors: Researchers will examine elevated SCT symptoms in the trajectory of academic and social impairment. Three factors (low classroom engagement, low academic motivation, poor organization) will be examined as mediators of the longitudinal relation between SCT and academic impairment, and three factors (withdrawal, internalizing symptoms, poor social awareness) will be examined as mediators of the longitudinal relation between SCT and social impairment. They will also examine processing speed and teacher/contextual factors (such as student-teacher relationship quality, teacher efficacy and classroom structure, and school climate) as exploratory factors linking SCT to impairment.

Research Design and Methods: This is a longitudinal staggered cohort study that will follow students who participated in a prior IES-funded study of children with and without SCT. The prior cross-sectional study included children in grades 2 to 5. During the current study, researchers will assess these children at multiple timepoints, allowing them to capture developmental trajectories through grade 8. At each timepoint, multiple methods and raters will be used to measure children's academic and social impairments. With four total timepoints that span from elementary to middle school, researchers will longitudinally examine the functional impairments of children with SCT at a developmental period when both SCT symptoms and functional impairments may increase.

Control Condition: Approximately 125 comparison students without elevated SCT will participate.

Key Measures: At each timepoint, researchers will use a comprehensive battery of teacher, parent, and self-report measures, academic achievement testing, and school records to evaluate academic and social functioning, as well as potential mediators linking SCT to impairment. Finally, the team will obtain school records to assess grades and any school accommodations/interventions received.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will use longitudinal structural equation modeling to examine the developmental trajectories of academic and social impairment across the developmental transition to intermediate/middle school and to determine whether trajectories differ for children with and without SCT. They will use mediation analyses to identify mechanisms of the association between SCT and functional impairment. The team will carry out moderated mediation analyses to explore whether mediation pathways differ for children with and without ADHD.

Related Projects: Sluggish Cognitive Tempo: Examining its Impact on Educational Functioning (R305A160064)