A new study co-authored by professor Thomas Dee, of the Stanford Graduate School of Education, has found that delaying entry into kindergarten for one year seems to cause a dip in the incidence of mental health issues attached to academic performance issues. First among these issues which appear to have been helped by a later entry into the schooling system is ADHD — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This condition is characterized by poor impulse control, and by difficulty in paying attention for extended periods of time.
The study was based on data collected in a Danish survey. This survey examined children who were born as little as one day apart, but whose school start dates were separated by eight months. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research reports, this survey used data collected outside of school, and the study results estimated that the one-year difference in start time had significant effects at both 7 — one year after the survey was initially taken — and 11, four years later.
We found that delaying kindergarten for one year reduced inattention and hyperactivity by 73 percent for an average child at age 11, and it virtually eliminated the probability that an average child at that age would have an ‘abnormal,’ or higher-than-normal rating for the inattentive-hyperactive behavioral measure.
According to the Stanford Graduate School of Education, this study is important because it can show a connection between academic performance and school starting time. While a direct correlation has been difficult to establish in past studies, this one can connect school starting age to various mental health predictors, which in turn are predictors of academic performance.
ADHD is a serious concern. Not only does it make it more difficult for children to learn, but it is also a possible source of classroom disruptions that affect all children in the class. And, of course, it can sometimes put children into dangerous or extreme situations when there isn’t a clear procedure by which adults can respond.
Dee cautions, of course, that conditions in the US and Denmark are different. In Denmark, pre-school is readily available, while it is less available in the US, for instance. Factors like this should be taken into account when discussing with teachers when to start your child in school.