Improved child care prevents increase in number of problem pupils

Grietens' research report makes four recommendations, based on working conferences with Dutch and Flemish experts from academia, education and educational policy. First of all more attention and funds are necessary for prevention within ordinary education. That means extra training for teachers and school management teams and greater involvement of schools in initiatives to support the upbringing of children. Other examples are the presence of satisfactory protocols at schools and small-scale projects for underprivileged young people or pupils with a developmental disorder.

Further the assessment of whether a child has special educational needs should not only include a diagnosis but also an explanatory analysis of general and specific factors related to the problem concerned. Only then, in their view, is it possible to make a correct choice with respect to the supervision of a child in a specific situation. They fear that otherwise the diagnosis will be reduced to ticking off boxes; a decision to allocate care or not.

Additionally more investments are needed in scientific research into practical experiences of dealing with behavioural problems in an ordinary educational setting. Also the funding within the policy needs to be adjusted so that organisations with a regional function are made jointly responsible for a fair distribution of the resources.


Has the number of children and young people with serious behavioural problems, such as aggression, autism and depression increased? Although such an increase is often assumed, the evidence is not clear cut. Grietens and his colleagues made a comparative analysis of a number of European and American studies about problem pupils published during the past twenty years. This revealed that despite differences in geography, age range and the problems studied there was no clear indication of a substantial rise in the number of problem pupils at a population level. However, trend analysis of specific problems provides a different picture. For example, between 1990 and 1998 the number ADHD diagnoses among 5 to 18-year olds rose considerably, even allowing for the role that the increasing familiarity with ADHD played in this. Child delinquency also increased throughout the world. The number of incidents reported to the Dutch and Flemish youth welfare offices equally increased.


Grietens' research was carried out on behalf of the Policy-Oriented Primary Education Research (BOPO) programme committee of NWO.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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