Early behavioural problems linked to lower GCSE grades

   
   
Exam results
22 Aug 2013 00:01:00.000

As thousands of 16-year-olds find out their GCSE results, new research has found that three-year-olds who display hyperactivity, inattention or conduct problems are at risk of worse academic outcomes when GCSEs come around.

Researchers at the Universities of Nottingham and Bristol sampled over 11,000 children as part of the study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The research findings are published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Click here for full story

Methodology

Parents were asked to complete a questionnaire when their child was 47 months old (just before their fourth birthday) to assess whether their child showed signs of hyperactivity/inattention or conduct problems. The children’s academic achievements were then assessed at 16 by looking at their GCSE results.

The sample were from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) in the UK, also known as the Children of the 90s study.

The results

After adjusting for variables such as IQ, maternal and paternal education, and parental social class, boys who displayed high levels of hyperactivity and inattention at 47 months (just before their fourth birthday) were found to be 33 per cent more likely to not achieve a minimum level of five good GCSE grades (A*-C) at 16.

For boys, both hyperactivity/inattention and conduct problems were associated with worse academic outcomes. On average, boys who displayed high levels of hyperactivity/inattention at 47 months scored 10 fewer points (equivalent to 1.67 GCSE grades) at 16. Boys with abnormal conduct at three scored 15 fewer points (equivalent to 2.5 GCSE grades) than boys with normal scores.

For girls, the effect of conduct problems on education achievement was comparable to boys. Girls with borderline scores for conduct problems scored nine fewer points (equivalent to 1.5 GCSE grades) at 16. Additionally, girls with abnormal scores scored 12 few points (equivalent to two GCSE grades) than girls with normal scores.

Early identification of behavioural problems

The findings of the research have a range of ramifications about the implications of early behaviour difficulties, as well as the importance of taking parental concerns seriously.

Dr Kapil Sayal, Reader in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at The University of Nottingham, was one of the key researchers. He believes there is a clear link between behavioural problems at three and academic attainment at 16.

He said: “Our findings raise questions about early identification of children with hyperactivity and attention problems. Although there is little evidence that routine screening for ADHD-type problems in the early school years is effective, teachers are well placed to identify young children with high levels of behavioural problems. Teachers should be encouraged to enhance their awareness of the long-term implications of early behavioural difficulties, and to take parental concerns about behaviour problems seriously.

“Health professionals should also inform the parents and teachers of young children with high levels of hyperactivity/inattention and conduct problems about the long-term academic risks, so that help can be offered at school. Early academic support for children with these problems may help reduce the long-term risk of poorer academic outcomes.”

Ends —

For up to the minute media alerts follow us on Twitter

Notes to editors: The University of Nottinghamhas 42,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It was ‘one of the first to embrace a truly international approach to higher education’, according to the Sunday Times University Guide 2013. It is also one of the most popular universities among graduate employers, one of the world’s greenest universities, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong and the QS World Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fundraising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Kapil Sayal, Clinical Associate Professor and Reader in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, +44(0)115 823 0264, Kapil.sayal@nottingham.ac.uk.

Fraser Wilson - Communications Officer

Email: fraser.wilson@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 846 6691 Location: University Park

Additional resources

No additional resources for this article

Related articles

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
C Floor, Pope Building (Room C4)
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798
email: communications@nottingham.ac.uk