Not Much News for Defining Sluggish Cognitive Tempo

Not Much News for Defining Sluggish Cognitive Tempo 
If Sluggish Cognitive Tempo (SCT) is to get a "place at the table" in the DSM V (the diagnostic manual that psychiatrists use to diagnose mental health conditions) a complete and accurate definition and description of the symptoms are necessary.

A group of researchers has developed a 14 point scale of SCT symptoms that aim to distinguish SCT from ADHD and from Inattentive ADHD.

A study, just published, in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology has tested this scale and identified three distinct traits that correspond with SCT and/or Inattentive ADHD symptoms and a trait, that when it is present, significantly impair individuals with SCT above and beyond the impairments related to sluggishness or inattentiveness.

The three traits are Sleepy/Sluggish, Slow/Daydreamy, and Low Initiation/Persistence.   The low initiaion/persistence scale contributes to significantly greater academic impairment but I would argue, as I did in the post on ADHD being a persistence deficit, that  this trait can be found in everyone with a diagnosis of ADHD regardless of subtype.

I hate to be a kill joy but I honestly do not see how a study that tells us that people with Sluggish Cognitive Tempo are more sluggish or more sleepy (or that a lack of persistence contribute to greater academic impairment) adds much to our knowledge of SCT.

The abstract is below.

J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2012 May 8.
Factor Structure of a Sluggish Cognitive Tempo Scale in Clinically-Referred Children.
Jacobson LA, Murphy-Bowman SC, Pritchard AE, Tart-Zelvin A, Zabel TA, Mahone EM.


"Sluggish cognitive tempo" (SCT) is a construct hypothesized to describe a constellation of behaviors that includes daydreaming, lethargy, drowsiness, difficulty sustaining attention, and underactivity. Although the construct has been inconsistently defined, measures of SCT have shown associations with symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), particularly inattention. Thus, better characterization of SCT symptoms may help to better predict specific areas of functional difficulty in children with ADHD. The present study examined psychometric characteristics of a recently developed 14-item scale of SCT (Penny et al., Psychological Assessment 21:380-389, 2009), completed by teachers on children referred for outpatient neuropsychological assessment. Exploratory factor analysis identified three factors in the clinical sample: Sleepy/Sluggish, Slow/Daydreamy, and Low Initiation/Persistence. Additionally, SCT symptoms, especially those loading on the Sleepy/Sluggish and Slow/Daydreamy factors, correlated more strongly with inattentive than with hyperactive/impulsive symptoms, while Low Initiation/Persistence symptoms added significant unique variance (over and above symptoms of inattention) to the predictions of impairment in academic progress.


  1. Thanks for continuing to write about SCT. I will look into that study. What do they say about SCT and memory compared to ADHD-I and memory. Do SCTers do the same or worse on memory tests as ADD-PIers. By the way your advertisements have began to partially cover your articles. I can't read the left portion of your articles now.

  2. Thanks John, Hopefully the ad issue is now fixed.


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