Skipping Class Cues Psychiatric Issues

Mental health directly correlated with school absenteeism

December 25, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Recent studies found that those with mental health problems miss the most work, and now researchers discovered the same goes for children in school.

Those students who are frequently absent from school tend to be prone to disordered thoughts and psychiatric dilemmas, according to a new study.

Published in the journal Child Development, lead author Jeffrey Wood, Ph.D., explains, “Students who are frequently absent from school are more likely to have symptoms of psychiatric disorders,” though the reasons why are “unclear.”

"Speak with a health care professional if your child struggles to make it to school."

Dr. Wood, professor of educational psychology and psychiatry at UCLA, and his team studied over seventeen thousand students in grades one to twelve using three sets of data:

  • the Johns Hopkins Prevention Intervention Research Center Study of classroom-based interventions in grade one to eight,
  • the Linking the Interests of Family and Teachers trial of grade one to twelve,
  • as well as the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health sampling students from grade seven to twelve.

Findings suggested that between second and eighth grade, the highest number of absences were among those already exhibiting mental health symptoms such as antisocial behavior or depression.

Moreover, high levels of mental disturbances early on wound up with higher levels as the years progressed.

According to Dr. Wood, “These two aspects of youths’ adjustment may at times exacerbate one another, leading over the course of time to more of each.” This cyclical nature makes it increasingly important to tackle the problem head-on.

Dr. Wood suggests, “The findings can help inform the development of programs to reduce school absenteeism. School personnel in middle schools and high schools could benefit from knowing that mental health issues and school absenteeism each influence the other over time.

“Helping students address mental health issues may in turn help prevent the emergence of chronic absenteeism. At the same time, working to help students who are developing a pattern of chronic absenteeism come to school more consistently may help prevent psychiatric problems.”

Parents, teachers, and students all helped gather the data and fill out questionnaires in order to come to these findings. It’s increasingly important for the welfare of a child’s health to note habitual absences and deal with the true problems at hand.

With novel therapies and continued research, professional mental health care truly makes a difference.

Talk with a doctor, counselor, or pediatrician if your child exhibits antisocial behavior, depressed symptoms, or struggles making it to school.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 22, 2011
Last Updated:
December 25, 2011