Aim: To assess cognitive functions in children who were reported by their teachers and parents to exhibit learning and/or behavioural problems, especially in the field of attention. Method: In connection with the scheduled school health examination in grade 4 in one municipality, 591 children were screened through questionnaires and interviews with the parents and teachers. Those with positive rating scores were subjected to further cognitive assessments, including the WISC III. A cluster analysis based on cognitive data was performed. Results: One third (175 children) of the population obtained a positive rating score, indicating significant behavioural and/or learning problems. Of these, 144 children were assessed. Cluster analysis revealed six clusters. Within these clusters, two large groups were identified: one group displayed generally low cognitive abilities and one group was dominated by attention deficit symptoms.
Conclusion: We found a surprisingly high number of positive rating scores in the cohort (30%). This could be explained, on the one hand, by known developmental disorders, such as mental retardation and learning disabilities, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and pervasive developmental disorders, and, on the other hand, by prevalent milder cognitive dysfunctions that, in combination with inappropriate demands, seemed to lead to overt behavioural problems.