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The relationship between breakfast, academic performance and vigilance in school aged children

Khan, Abdullah (2006) The relationship between breakfast, academic performance and vigilance in school aged children. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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This research was designed to investigate the relationship between breakfast habits and academic performance and vigilance in upper primary children. The content of breakfast consumed, the frequency of skipping breakfast, gender differences, social impacts and reasons for skipping breakfast in upper primary school children are also examined. There is little Australian research on children's breakfast habits or its relationship with academic performance and vigilance. Hence there is a need for research on this issue in the Australian context.

The study involved 72 children of 5th, 6th and 7th grades from two schools in Western Australia. Data were obtained in three ways (a) the children completed a questionnaire which explored their breakfast habits, (b) the class teachers recorded the classroom performance/grades based on their classroom evaluations, and behaviour of the children based on the observations, and (c) the children were then given three vigilance tasks approximately one and a half hours into the school day. The children were divided into breakfast and no-breakfast groups based on the self-report of breakfast consumption on that day.

The study found that more than half of the children at least sometimes skip their breakfast, with no differences attributed to gender. A number of children reported eating breakfast on the way to school but the proportion of those having a nutritious breakfast on the way to school was almost negligible. Even those having breakfast regularly (55%) might not be consuming a nutritious breakfast. Children reported feeling sleepy, inactive and forgetful as a consequence of skipping breakfast on the day. Reasons offered for skipping mainly had to do with personal choice and convenience, rather than with dieting and concern about body shape. There was no relationship found between breakfast skipping and academic performance and vigilance. Evidence that breakfast skipping affects concentration span of children was found for year 6 and 7 students in the study.

Potential strategies based on the findings of this study are discussed. Providing a nutritious breakfast for children or supplementing their daily diets with fruit are interventions which have the potential to make a significant impact on children's health and well-being. In order to have a nutritious breakfast, children should be encouraged to have breakfast at home before leaving for school as they usually tend to eat a less nutritious breakfast on the way to school or at school. Organizing a breakfast day at school will also promote the importance of having breakfast. Further emphasis on nutrition and healthy eating in schools could make a difference.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Supervisor(s): MacCallum, Judy
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