School exclusion ‘linked to long-term mental health problems’ – study

The Guardian reports that excluding children from school may lead to long-term psychiatric problems and psychological distress, a major new study has shown. The research by the University of Exeter also finds that poor mental health can lead to school exclusion.

The study found a “bi-directional association” between psychological distress and exclusion: children with psychological distress and mental health problems were more likely to be excluded but their exclusion acted as a predictor of increased psychological distress three years later on.

The research, described as the most rigorous analysis of its kind, will be published this week in the journal Psychological Medicine. It warns that exclusion can contribute to a range of mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety as well as behavioural disturbance.

Professor Tamsin Ford, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the university’s medical school, who led the study team, said that while relatively few pupils were expelled, even temporary exclusions could amplify psychological distress.

“For children who really struggle at school, exclusion can be a relief as it removes them from an unbearable situation with the result that on their return to school they will behave even more badly to escape again. As such, it becomes an entirely counterproductive disciplinary tool as it encourages the very behaviour it intends to punish. By avoiding exclusion and finding other solutions to poor behaviour, schools can help children’s mental health in the future as well as their education.”

The team found there were more children with mental disorders among those who had been excluded than those who had not. Children who had a previous mental disorder were omitted from the analysis.

“Although an exclusion from school may only last for a day or two, the impact and repercussions for the child and parents are much wider,” said Claire Parker, one of the researchers. “Exclusion often marks a turning point during an ongoing difficult time for the child, parent and those trying to support the child in school.”

Read more School exclusion ‘linked to long-term mental health problems’ – study

Do you agree with the reports findings? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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