Teens: Is It Depression Or Behavior Problems That More Likely Affect Grades?

Parenting is not about letting go…

Raising teenagers

 

“Even as kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence is not about letting go. It’s about hanging on during a very bumpy ride.” Ron Taffel, Ph.D.

For sure, being the parent of a teenager is hard work. We worry everyday when they leave for school, we worry about their grades, their involvement in sports, their friends, we worry about their ability to go on to college and we also try to keep a close eye on their behaviors. These behaviors include experimenting with drugs and alcohol and more frequently we try to be aware of any signs of depression.  It can be, as Dr. Taffel says, a very bumpy ride.

New study looks at depression, behavior problems and lower grades

Many parents are taken aback when their children reach high school and they witness a sudden or subtle slip in their teenager’s grade point average (GPA). Parents begin to wonder if the grade school teachers were too easy in their grading requirements or if their child really just isn’t as smart as they had thought or hoped. Parents search for answers. Parents observe their teenagers looking for signs of depression which could lead to the report card being less than stellar. But often parents will ignore behaviors that more likely can cause the slip in school performance. These behaviors could include attention deficit, substance abuse and/or delinquency – all behaviors that no parent wants to consider.

The December 2012 issue of The Journal of Health and Social Behavior published a study led by Jane D. McLeod, Indiana University, Department of Sociology. The full report Adolescent Mental Health, Behavior Problems, and Academic Achievement¬† states that “prior research on the association of mental health and behavior problems with academic achievement is limited because it does not consider multiple problems simultaneously, take co-occurring problem into account, and control for academic aptitude.”

An overview of the study…

The researchers examined data provided by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. This data was gathered by following youth from middle and high school years through the transition to early adulthood.

  • Researchers used a stratified sample of 80 high schools and 52 middle schools.
  • 7th through 12th grade youth who attended these schools were invited to participate in an in-school survey. The number of participants was 90,118.

According to HealthDay News the study found:

  • Unlike students with depression, those with behavior problems such as attention issues, delinquency or substance use had lower GPAs than others.
  • Delinquency and substance use were associated with receiving lesser educational degrees, while depression was not.
  • Students with two of these problems typically earned lower GPAs and lesser degrees than those with one problem, and some combinations of problems had more harmful effects than others.
  • Substance use worsened the educational risks associated with depression, attention issues and delinquency.
  • Having depression did not, however, increase the educational risks associated with attention issues, delinquency or substance use.

Quoting Jane McLeod:

“There’s a fairly sizable literature that links depression in high school to diminished academic achievement. The argument we make in our study is what’s really happening is that youths who are depressed also have other problems, and it’s those other problems that are adversely affecting their achievement.”

Parenting teens and considering an intervention

The holiday season is here. Thanksgiving has come and gone. Now families across the United States are making plans for the December holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Years. It is a time of year that school semesters are drawing to a close and our teenagers and college students will be receiving their term grades. And while we all look forward to happy holidays spent with our children, this may be the time to question the grade point averages that just don’t make sense. If the report card is sending the parent a message, take the time to ask questions and to be observant of your child’s behavior patterns. If you suspect that substance abuse may be a problem and you need help with an intervention, then by all means reach out for that help.

An intervention at this point in your child’s life may be the best holiday present you can provide…a gift that can last long into adulthood.

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