Healthy Living

Lower Attention, Not Depression, Lowers School Grades

Lower grades at school might have an association with teenage behavior problems like delinquency or lower attention levels, rather than depression, says a new study.

Jane D. McLeod, lead author of the study says that though depression has been linked to poor academic performance in some students, it is not the cause. According to McLeod, many other behavioral problems that are associated with depression actually lower students' grades at school.

The study used data from National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health that followed thousands of U.S. students from their teenage years to early youth. The present study used data on the students who were in high school in 1994.

Researchers assessed academic achievements of the students by their GPAs and educational degrees that they received by 2008-2009.

"Behavior problems including attention issues, delinquency, and substance use are associated with diminished achievement, but depression is not. Certainly, there are depressed youths who have trouble in school, but it's likely because they are also using substances, engaging in delinquent activities, or have attention issues," said Jane D. McLeod, a sociology professor, an associate dean at Indiana University and lead author of the study.

Study results showed that students with behavioral problems had lowest GPAs and were less likely to get an advanced education degree compared to students who had depression. For the study, researchers even controlled for aptitude of the students, meaning that even in students who had the ability of doing well in a particular field, behavioral problems hindered progress.

"What we found is that there are adolescents who have the ability to succeed, but who are not succeeding in school because of their troubling behavior-attention issues, delinquency, substance use or a combination. This suggests to me that schools should reconsider the approach they take to dealing with these students. Perhaps, they should think about moving away from punitive approaches towards approaches aimed at integrating these students into the school community," McLeod said.

The study is published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

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