Open Access Study protocol

The Children’s Attention Project: a community-based longitudinal study of children with ADHD and non-ADHD controls

Emma Sciberras1112*, Daryl Efron1102, Elizabeth J Schilpzand1, Vicki Anderson11045, Brad Jongeling67, Philip Hazell8, Obioha C Ukoumunne9 and Jan M Nicholson13

Author Affiliations

1 Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia

2 Centre for Community Child Health, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia

3 Parenting Research Centre, Melbourne, Australia

4 Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

5 Integrated Mental Health Program, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Parkville, Australia

6 Joondalup Child Dev Centre, Perth, Australia

7 Department of Paediatrics, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

8 Discipline of Psychiatry, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

9 PenCLAHRC, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

10 Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

11 Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Flemington Road, Parkville, Vic, 3052, Australia

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BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:18  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-18

Published: 10 January 2013



Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects approximately 5% of children worldwide and results in significant impairments in daily functioning. Few community-ascertained samples of children with ADHD have been studied prospectively to identify factors associated with differential outcomes. The Children’s Attention Project is the first such study in Australia, examining the mental health, social, academic and quality of life outcomes for children with diagnostically-confirmed ADHD compared to non-ADHD controls. The study aims to map the course of ADHD symptoms over time and to identify risk and protective factors associated with differential outcomes.


The sample for this prospective longitudinal study is being recruited across 43 socio-economically diverse primary schools across Melbourne, Australia. All children in Grade 1, the second year of formal schooling (6–8 years), are screened for ADHD symptoms using independent parent and teacher reports on the Conners’ 3 ADHD index (~N = 5260). Children screening positive for ADHD by both parent and teacher report, and a matched sample (gender, school) screening negative, are invited to participate in the longitudinal study. At baseline this involves parent completion of the NIMH Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children IV (DISC-IV) to confirm likely ADHD diagnostic status and identify other mental health difficulties, direct child assessments (cognitive, academic, language and executive functioning; height and weight) and questionnaires for parents and teachers assessing outcomes, as well as a broad range of risk and protective factors (child, parent/family, teacher/school, and socio-economic factors). Families will be initially followed up for 3 years.


This study is the first Australian longitudinal study of children with ADHD and one of the first community-based longitudinal studies of diagnostically confirmed children with ADHD. The study’s examination of a broad range of risk and protective factors and ADHD-related outcomes has the potential to inform novel strategies for intervention and prevention.

Attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity; Child; Longitudinal studies; Community; Outcome assessment