Truancy and mental health problems

There is a link between school absenteeism and a higher prevalence of mental health problems in later adolescence, new research has suggested. Published in the journal Child Development, the study found young people who frequently miss classes can have more symptoms of psychiatric disorders.

Investigators from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Florida, Boston University, the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center, the Oregon Social Learning Center and Johns Hopkins University also discovered mental health issues in one year predicts missing more days of school the next.

Jeffrey Wood, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology and Psychiatry at UCLA - which was founded in 1919 and is home to almost 40,000 students - said it has long been known that those who are frequently absent are more prone to psychiatric disorder symptoms, adding: "These two aspects of youths' adjustment may at times exacerbate one another, leading over the course of time to more of each."

Dr Jeremy Swinson, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "This finding is consistent with a great deal of other research over the years.

"In childhood, children who have a high level of routine, regular meals, regular bedtimes, different patterns of behaviour on weekdays and weekends tend to do well at school.

"They attend regularly and appear more able to fit in with routines at school and in the class. They are more settled and more able to learn.

"Children from chaotic families are less well prepared for school, do not attend regularly and on the whole do not do well. Children from ordered families are able to predict the future better, deal more effectively with upset better and are more resilient.

"As a consequence they have high levels of emotional and social well being and are less prone to mental health problems."