Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 245–257 | Cite as

Inattentiveness and Language Abilities in Preschoolers: A Latent Profile Analysis

  • Sherine R. TambyrajaEmail author
  • A. Rhoad-Drogalis
  • K. S. Khan
  • L. M. Justice
  • B. E. Sawyer


Growing evidence suggests that early symptoms of inattentiveness may affect the language development and academic success of young children. In the present study, we examined the extent to which profiles of inattentiveness and language could be discerned within a heterogeneous group of preschoolers attending early childhood special education programs (n = 461). Based on parent-reported observations of children’s symptoms of inattentiveness and direct assessments of children’s language skills (grammar, vocabulary, and narrative ability), three distinct profiles were identified. The three groups, representing levels of severity (at risk, almost average, above average), differed not only by their end of year performance, but also with respect to which their abilities changed over the course of the academic year. Children in the poorest performing profile had poorer mean scores in the spring of their preschool year on all measures, but exhibited patterns of gain that exceeded or equaled their peers in higher-performing groups, in the domains of vocabulary and grammar. Examination of subsequent kindergarten reading skills suggested that profile differences remained consistent. Findings underscore the associations between early symptoms of inattentiveness and language difficulties, and further indicate that these relations extend to the acquisition of early reading skills. Future research is needed to corroborate these findings with more robust measures of attention, and to understand the long-term associations between inattentiveness, language and literacy, and potential effects on these associations from early intervention.


Inattentiveness Language impairment Preschoolers Latent profile analysis Special education classrooms 



Removed for author anonymity. The authors thank the research team and all the participating teachers and families without whom this research would not be possible.


This research was supported by the National Center for Special Education Research, Institute for Education Sciences, through Grant R324A130066 awarded to The Ohio State University (Justice, Piasta, and O’Connell) and Lehigh University (Sawyer). The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or National Center for Education Research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

Removed for author anonymity.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Human and Animal Rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and PolicyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Lehigh UniversityBethlehemUSA

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