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Title: The structure and function of attention in typical and atypical development
Author: Breckenridge, Kate Ellen
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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Abstract:
The attention test batteries currently available for developmental assessment are mostly too challenging for children younger than 6 years, and are often unsuitable for children with developmental delay or attention deficits. With younger children, the process of assessing complex functions of attention is challenging. However, the emergence of attention mechanisms is a key developmental issue, which would benefit from more suitable tools for the assessment of attention in early childhood. This thesis describes the development of a battery designed to test multiple components of attention in children with a mental age between 3 and 6 years, including children with developmental disorders as well as typically-developing children. A considerable literature devoted to the nature and organisation of attention functions has suggested separable components of selective attention, sustained attention and attentional control (e.g. Posner & Petersen, 1990 Mirsky et al., 1991 Manly et al., 2001 Fan et al., 2002). However, most of this work has used adult or school-age participants. This study used the new battery to explore whether this model provides an accurate description of attention in early childhood. Factor analysis provided support for the hypothesised model, but suggested that changes in the structure of attention occur over the preschool age range. The battery was also used to examine how attention is affected in two developmental disorders where attention problems are common: Williams syndrome and Down's syndrome. By using a range of tests to assess different aspects of attention, it is possible to establish whether observed attention problems are global or specific to particular components. Both groups showed patterns of impairment that varied across subtests, with some deficits common to both groups, and others present only in one group. These results are considered in relation to what is known about the structure of attention in adults and older children, its neuroanatomy and the atypical development of attention in childhood disorders. This thesis highlights the need for a more developmental perspective that takes into account changes in the structure and function of attention over the lifespan.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.498690  DOI: Not available
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