Study shows bad behaviour at school is predictor of range of problems later

Guardian (UK) 9 January 2009

Tearaway teenagers identified by teachers as misbehaving at school are more likely to go on to experience difficulties in their adult lives, including depression and divorce, a major study has found. Researchers looked at the health and social problems of more than 3,500 adults whose behaviour had been rated by their teachers when they were aged 13 and 15. Between the ages of 36 and 53 they were asked again about their mental health and social and economic status. The 40-year study showed that participants with severe or mild behaviour problems in adolescence were more likely to leave school with no qualifications and go on to suffer a number of difficulties throughout their adulthood, including depression, anxiety, divorce and financial concerns. This result held true even after taking into account predictors of outcomes in adulthood such as sex, father’s social class, adolescent depression and cognitive ability.

Published in the British Medical Journal today, the study was led by Prof Ian Colman, now at the University of Alberta in Canada, and used data from the Medical Research Council’s national survey of health and development. ..Previous studies have shown that individuals with severe conduct problems place a significant burden on society in terms of crime, as well as through additional needs in education, health and welfare. But, unlike previous studies in the field, the new study’s findings also showed that most of the participants who were badly behaved at school did not have alcohol problems as they got older.