Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 575–596 | Cite as

Neurological soft signs and school achievement: The mediating effects of sustained attention

  • Irvin Sam Schonfeld
  • David Shaffer
  • Joseph E. Barmack


A group of 115 black male adolescents drawn from a clinically unselected birth cohort, half of whom were known to have had neurological soft signs at age 7, were examined at age 17 to determine the relation between soft signs and performance on standard tests of school achievement and sustained attention. Three signs measured at age 17-dysgraphesthesia, difficulties with rapid alternating movements (dysdiadochokinesis), and motor slowness—were related to lower concurrent and past IQ and to impaired performance on laboratory and paper-and-pencil measures of sustained attention. The relation between signs and the attentional measures remained significant after IQ was statistically controlled. The three age 17 soft signs as well as age 7 signs were related to impaired performance on standardized tests (age 17) of school achievement. Most of the relation between signs and school achievement could be accounted for by the variance signs shared with sustained attention. One sign, mirror movements, was unrelated to all other attentional and cognitive measures.


Variance Sign Standard Test Birth Cohort Sustained Attention Male Adolescent 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irvin Sam Schonfeld
    • 1
    • 2
  • David Shaffer
    • 3
    • 4
  • Joseph E. Barmack
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Social and Psychological FoundationsCity College of New YorkNew York
  2. 2.Columbia UniversityUSA
  3. 3.Division of Child PsychiatryColumbia UniversityNew York
  4. 4.New York State Psychiatric InstituteNew York

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