Age-related differences in daily attention patterns in preschool, kindergarten, first-grade, and fifth-grade pupils

Chronobiol Int. 2007;24(2):327-43. doi: 10.1080/07420520601139839.


The purpose of this study was to examine age-related differences in the daily attention patterns of preschool, kindergarten, first-grade, and fifth-grade pupils by means of a cross-sectional sample of 4-11-year-old French students. The importance of this study comes from the need to understand attention and apply the information it provides in educational settings. The first study conducted in a school setting with three age groups (4-5-, 6-7-, and 10-11-year-olds) demonstrated a rapid rhythmicity (60 minute period) for preschoolers (4-5 years old), with higher performance at the beginning of a teaching session. This pattern evolved until the fifth grade (10-11-year-olds), after which the temporal variation in attention was comparable to that of working adults, with fluctuations occurring on a half-day basis. The children's scores on crossing-out tests rose during the morning, declined in the early afternoon, and then rose again later during the afternoon. The second study enhanced our understanding of the change of the rhythm in attention of 4-7-year-old pupils. The rapid daily rhythmicity, linked to a session effect, seems to gradually disappear as children move from preschool 2 to kindergarten (4-5- to 5-6-year-olds) and then on to first grade (6-7-year-olds), where the daily attention patterns are closer to the standard pattern found by chronopsychology studies. The evolving patterns obtained from group means were confirmed by analysis of individual patterns. Exploratory statistical analysis of the data provided greater detail on the observed interindividual patterns, indicating that within each school grade, the attention patterns of some children are similar to the standard pattern while the attention patterns of others are more atypical. Deviations were mainly found in the 5-6-year-old age range (kindergarteners). The greatest 'mixture' of patterns was observed in the kindergartners (5-6-year-olds). Age plays a role not only in modifying daily changes but also in the distribution of interindividual differences in daily fluctuations, which occur most when children are of kindergarten age (5-6 years of age).

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Students