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Children’s Attention Project

Research project

Welcome to the Children's Attention Project! The Children's Attention Project (CAP) is a research project being conducted by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute at The Royal Children's Hospital.

CAP is about the long-term effects that ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) have on children's behaviour, learning and day-to-day living, and also on their parents' well-being. We ask families with and without these difficulties to take part in the research, to compare. CAP is the only long-term follow up study of ADHD in Australia and one of the first studies of its kind worldwide.

This project is funded by the National Health & Medical Research Council and has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of the Royal Children's Hospital and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victorian Government.

About CAP

Inattention and/or hyperactivity difficulties are extremely common, affecting 7% of Australian children. Significant difficulties with inattention and/or hyperactivity may be referred to as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Clinical studies (i.e. with patients) show that children with ADHD are at risk for a range of poorer outcomes in later life - including poorer mental health, social difficulties, and academic underachievement. However studies of children receiving treatment for ADHD tell us little about the outcomes for the many children with ADHD who do not attend health services.

Study Aims

To conduct the first Australian cohort study of children with and without ADHD to:

  1. Describe ADHD symptoms over the early years of school;
  2. Examine outcomes for children with and without ADHD in the following domains: mental health, academic functioning, and social functioning.
  3. Examine family outcomes for children with and without ADHD including parent mental health and family quality of life
  4. Identify the child, family, socio-demographic and school factors that influence these children's outcomes.

We have recruited 43 state primary schools across two school regions (Western and Eastern metropolitan) in Victoria.

In STAGE 1 of this study, we asked parents of all Grade 1 children in our participating schools to complete a short questionnaire about their child’s behaviour. With parental consent, we also asked the child’s teacher to complete a short questionnaire about their behaviour in the classroom.

We invited approximately 600 families to participate in STAGE 2 of this study. We completed face-to-face interviews about their child’s behaviour, and children took part in an assessment of their cognitive and learning skills with one of our team members at their school. We also collected information from parent and teacher questionnaires.

Now we are in STAGE 3 of our study with our 36-month follow-up! Since CAP is a long-term project that aims to follow children to track their development, we are now contacting families for their participation. Like the first stage, we are asking parents to complete an interview about their child’s behaviour, and children to complete an academic assessment. We will also ask your child’s teacher to complete a questionnaire about your child’s classroom behaviour and learning.

What’s different this time?

We have an exciting optional addition to CAP this time around – brain imaging using MRI! A select number of families will be invited to participate in this part of the study and have their brain scanned using MRI. This important study will help us look at brain development and its relationship with attention. If you decide to take part, we complete the MRI at The Royal Children’s Hospital, and also complete you parent interview and child assessment on the same day. If you do not wish to take part in MRI, you can continue with your regular CAP follow-up assessments at home or at your child’s school.

Head to the next page to find out more about our exciting new MRI study!

Significance and benefits of taking part

Despite the high prevalence of inattention and/or hyperactivity difficulties, information on the course of these difficulties and the factors which influence children's outcomes is limited. New knowledge from this study will help health and educational professionals better understand which children are in greatest need of support and treatment, and when it is most helpful to provide this assistance. We hope that this knowledge will lead to better outcomes for children with inattention and/or hyperactivity difficulties.