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Bad behaviour at school creates lifelong problems

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Information gathered over forty years has shown that young people who misbehave at school are more likely than others to experience difficulties in their adult lives. The data for the study, led by Professor Ian Colman now at the University of Alberta in Canada, were provided by the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing from the MRC National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD), also known as the 1946 Birth Cohort. The results are published online in the British Medical Journal.

The study found that participants in the NSHD who had severe or mild conduct problems in adolescence were more likely to leave school with no qualifications and go on to suffer a number of problems in adulthood including depression, anxiety, divorce and financial difficulty.

Professor Colman and his colleagues examined the health and social problems of more than 3,500 people and whose behaviour was rated by their teachers when they were 13 and 15 years old, Later, when they were between the ages of 36 and 53 they were asked about their mental health and their social and economic status.  

Behavioural problems in schools affect about 7% of 9 to 15 year olds and have been increasing for the past 30 years. 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.

The study found that participants with severe or mild conduct problems in adolescence were more likely to have problems that continued throughout adult life. This result held true even after taking into account predictors of outcomes in adulthood such as sex, father’s social class, adolescent depression and anxiety and cognitive ability.

Unlike previous studies in the field, the findings also showed that most of the participants who were badly behaved at school did not have alcohol problems as they got older.

(Source: British Medical Journal: Medical Research Council UK: January 2009)

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Posted On: 13 January, 2009
Modified On: 16 January, 2014

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