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Adolescents’ Behavioral Problems Can Have Lifelong Impact

Adolescents’ Behavioral Problems Can Have Lifelong ImpactAdolescents who misbehave at school are more likely to have difficulties throughout their adult lives, finds a 40-year study of British citizens.

These difficulties cover all areas of life, from mental health to domestic and personal relationships to economic deprivation.

Severe behavioral problems in schools affect about 7 percent of 9-15 year olds and have been on the increase 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 the additional needs of education, health and welfare.

Ian Colman, an Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Population Health Investigator, and Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health, and his colleagues examined the health and social problems of adults who had mild and severe behavioral problems as adolescents.

The findings are based on more than 3,500 individuals taking part in the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development (the British 1946 birth cohort), over a 40-year period. All the participants were aged between 13 and 15 at the start of the study. Approximately a quarter of the participants had mild behavioral problems.

Participants were rated by their teachers as having severe, mild or no conduct problems and were followed up between the ages of 36 and 53 when they were asked about their mental health, and social and economic status.

The results reveal disturbing new information about the societal impact of milder behavioral problems.

They show that the participants with 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 and anxiety, divorce, teenage pregnancy, and financial problems that continued throughout adult life.

These results 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.

Interestingly, unlike previous studies in the field, these findings show that most of the participants who were badly behaved at school did not have alcohol problems as they got older.

Colman and his team conclude: “Given the long-term costs to society, and the distressing impact on the adolescents themselves, our results might have considerable implications for public health policy.”

The study is published on

Source: BMJ-British Medical Journal

Adolescents’ Behavioral Problems Can Have Lifelong Impact

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Adolescents’ Behavioral Problems Can Have Lifelong Impact. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 26, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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