Dimensions of cognition, behaviour, and mental health in struggling learners: A spotlight on girls

Jacalyn Guy, Silvana Mareva, Grace Franckel, The CALM Team, Joni Holmes

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Abstract

Background: Fewer girls than boys are identified as struggling at school for suspected problems in attention, learning and/or memory. The objectives of this study were to: i) identify dimensions of cognition, behaviour and mental health in a unique transdiagnostic sample of struggling learners; ii) test whether these constructs were equivalent for boys and girls, and; iii) compare their performance across the dimensions.

Methods: 805 school-aged children, identified by practitioners as experiencing problems in cognition and learning, completed cognitive assessments, and parents/carers rated their behaviour and mental health problems.

Results: Three cognitive [Executive, Speed, Phonological], three behavioural [Cognitive Control, Emotion Regulation, Behaviour Regulation], and two mental health [Internalising, Externalising] dimensions distinguished the sample. Dimensions were structurally comparable between boys and girls, but differences in severity were present: girls had greater impairments on performance-based measures of cognition; boys were rated as having more severe externalising problems.

Conclusions: Gender biases to stereotypically male behaviours are prevalent among practitioners, even when the focus is on identifying cognitive and learning difficulties. This underscores the need to include cognitive and female-representative criteria in diagnostic systems to identify girls whose difficulties could go easily undetected.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12082
JournalJCPP Advances
Early online date11 Oct 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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