An investigation of selected measures of attention in children two and three years of age



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The major purpose of the present investigation was to assess attention in the behavior of children two and three years of age. Attention was evaluated to determine the stability of attention over tasks, settings, and times, and to test the hypothesis that attention is correlated significantly and positively with cognitive performance. The study also compared performance at two and three years of age to determine ability of measures given at two years of age to predict performance at three years of age. The measures used were the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID), which assessed both attention and mental development at two years of age, the 30 Minute Free Play Situation, which measured length of Sustained Directed Activity (SDA) in play with toys, and the Matching Figures Task, which yielded scores for attention manifested by delay of response in placement of puzzle pieces and measured ability manifested by number of trials to correct response. The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales determined both attention and quality of response at three years of age. The measures were administered to 60 Chicano children enrolled in the Parent Child Development Center, a research program of the Psychology Department of the University of Houston. Attentional scores were correlated with mental development scores by Pearson Product Moment Correlation. A T-Transformations matrix indicated levels of significance for all correlations. The matrices were analyzed to determine direction and extent of relationship of attention and cognitive performance across the times, settings, and tasks present in the measures. The BSID Tester Rating of attention was related to the BSID Mental Development Index significantly and positively at .47 (p < .001). The BSID Tester Rating was related to the BSID Attentional Subscale significantly and positively at .43 (p < .001). The MDI was related to the Attentional Subscale significantly and positively at .631 (p < .001). This degree of relationship was attributed to the internal consistency of the BSID rather than to a significant link between attention and mental development. In like fashion, the S-B IQ score and the S-B Subscale were correlated significantly and positively at .79 (p < .001). However, the S-B was not correlated significantly to other measures of mental development or attention. The MF Task error score was correlated significantly and negatively with BSID MDI at -.625 (p < .001), with the BSID Subscale at -.492 (p < .01), and with the BSID Tester Rating at -.546 (p < .01). Children performing well on the puzzle task (low error score) performed well on the BSID (high MDI, Tester Rating, and Subscale scores). SDA showed negligible relationship with attentional measures and mental measures. Latency, as evidenced by delay in response on the MF Task, showed the same negligible relationship. Lack of relationship between attentional measures failed to support the hypothesis that attention is stable over tasks, settings, and times. Attention and mental development were without significant relationship, indicating length of attentional episodes are unrelated to cognitive product at two and three years of age. Neither attentional nor mental measures administered predicted later attentional or mental performance of children.