Impact of behavior on depressed teens’ grades could signal need to re-examine school disciplinary approaches

A study by Indiana University Bloomington sociologist Jane McLeod found that behavior problems, not depression, are linked to lower grades for depressed adolescents.

Jane McLeod

“Certainly, there are depressed youths who have trouble in school, but it’s likely because they are also using substances, engaging in delinquent activities or have attention issues,” McLeod said in a news release.

With some school discipline policies, such behavior could land students in out-of-school suspension, where they could have more opportunities to use drugs or alcohol – and more opportunities to miss out on important classroom instruction.

“What we found is that there are adolescents who have the ability to succeed, but who are not succeeding in school because of their troubling behavior: attention issues, delinquency, substance use or a combination,” McLeod said. “This suggests to me that schools should reconsider the approach they take to dealing with these students. Perhaps they should think about moving away from punitive approaches toward approaches aimed at integrating these students into the school community.”

McLeod’s research article, “”Adolescent Mental Health, Behavior Problems and Academic Achievement,” is appearing in the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.  More details can be found in this news release. McLeod is a professor in the Department of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences. She also serves as an associate dean.

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