Aggressive behavior, emotional, and attention problems across childhood and academic attainment at the end of primary school

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This research assesses whether aggressive behavior and emotional problems from early childhood onwards are related to academic attainment at the end of primary education, and whether these links are independent of attention problems.

The researchers make use of data on 2546 children participating in a longitudinal birth cohort in Rotterdam to look at aggressive behavior, attention and emotional problems at ages 1½, 3, 5 and 10 and their links with academic attainment at age 12.

Children exhibiting aggressive behavior across the age ranges did less well, but these links all but disappeared when the researchers took the child’s comorbid attention problems into account.

Children with emotional problems at age 10 only did worse at school. Interestingly though, the negative association was driven by the comorbidity of attention problems. When attention problems were taken into account, children with emotional problems only had a better academic attainment.

Having only attention problems was linked across the board with poorer attainment.

The researchers conclude that further investigation and a better understanding of the mechanisms through which attention problems and emotional problems affect academic attainment could inform strategies for the promotion of better educational attainment.

They add that the findings add weight to arguments that education not only affects health, but that health has a positive impact on educational attainment too.