Mental health and academic performance: a study on selection and causation effects from childhood to early adulthood

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An inverse relationship between mental health and academic achievement is a well-known phenomenon in the
scientific literature. However, how and when this association develops is not fully understood and there is a lack of longi-
tudinal, population-based studies on young children. Early intervention is important if associations are to be found already
during childhood. The aim of the present study was to investigate the development of the association between mental health
and academic performance during different developmental periods of childhood and adolescence.
Data from a longitudinal birth cohort study of 1700 children were used. Child mental health was assessed through
mother’s reports at age 3, and self-reports at age 12 and 20. Academic performance was assessed through teacher reports on
educational results at age 12 and final grades from compulsory school (age 15–16) and upper secondary school (age 18–19).
The association between mental health and academic performance was assessed through regression models.
The results indicate that social selection mechanisms are present in all three periods studied. Behavioral and emo-
tional problems at age 3 were associated with performing below grade at age 12. Similarly, mental health problems at age 12
were associated with lack of complete final grades from compulsory school and non-eligibility to higher education. Academic
performance at ages 15 and 19 did not increase the risk for mental health problems at age 20.
Mental health problems in early childhood and adolescence increase the risk for poor academic performance,
indicating the need for awareness and treatment to provide fair opportunities to education.


Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • Linköping University

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Sociologi (exklusive socialt arbete, socialpsykologi och socialantropologi)
  • Psykiatri
TidskriftSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 2020 aug 19
Peer review utfördJa