Two behaviours linked to dropout rates in high school

A study published in the Journal of School Health examines how two behaviours – aggression and poor study skills – may be a factor in why some pupils do not finish high school.

Pamela Orpinas and colleagues randomly selected 620 sixth-grade (Year 7) pupils from northeast Georgia schools. Teachers completed a behaviour rating scale for these pupils every year from grades six to twelve (Year 7 to Year 13). Based on teacher ratings, the pupils were categorised into low, medium and high aggression trajectories from middle to high school and into five study skills groups (low, average-low, decreasing, increasing and high).  Examples of behaviours considered to be aggressive were threatening to hurt, hitting, bullying and teasing others. Examples of study skills were doing extra credit work, being well organised, completing homework, working hard and reading assigned chapters. Participants in the study were classed as a dropout if they were not enrolled in school and had not obtained a high school diploma by the end of the spring term in grade 12 (Year 13).

Pupils who were identified in the high-aggression/low-study-skills group had a 50% dropout rate compared to pupils with low aggression and high study skills who had a dropout rate of less than 2%. The results highlight the importance of early interventions that combine academic enhancement and behavioural management for reducing school dropout rates.

Source: Longitudinal examination of aggression and study skills From middle to high school: Implications for dropout prevention (February 2018), Journal of School Health Volume 88, issue 3

Outcomes of a single-session intervention for teenage anxiety and depression

A study published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry examines whether a half-hour, self-administered, single-session intervention (SSI) teaching growth mindset can reduce depression and anxiety and strengthen perceived control in high-risk teenagers.

Teenagers (aged 12–15) and their parents completed separate baseline questionnaires about the young person’s anxiety and depressive symptoms, which were then repeated over a nine-month follow-up period. Teenagers also reported on their perceived behavioural control. The teenagers were then randomised to receive either a 30-minute computer-guided intervention teaching growth mindset (the belief that personality is malleable), or a supportive therapy control.

Compared to the control group, teenagers who received the SSI had greater improvements in parent-reported depression (effect size = +0.60) and anxiety (+0.28), as well as self-reported depression (+0.32) and perceived behavioural control (+0.29) from baseline to nine-month follow-up. The effects of the intervention on self-reported anxiety were +0.36.

The report concludes that the findings suggest a promising, scalable SSI for reducing anxiety and depression in high-risk teenagers.

Source: A single-session growth mindset intervention for adolescent anxiety and depression: 9-month outcomes of a randomized trial (September 2017), The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry

How much sleep do teenagers need?

In a new study published in Child Development, Andrew J Fuligni and colleagues examined whether there is an “optimal” amount of sleep for peak levels of academic achievement and mental health in teenagers.

A total of 421 pupils (mean age = 15.03 years) with Mexican-American backgrounds from the 9th and 10th grades (Years 10 and 11) of two high schools in the Los Angeles area reported the amount of sleep they had every night for two weeks. Official school records were obtained at the end of the academic year to measure academic achievement. The Youth Self-Report form of the Child Behavior Checklist was used as a measure of mental health. A year later, 80% repeated the same process and a second wave of data was collected.

Pupils who averaged 8.75 – 9 hours of sleep per school night demonstrated peak levels of mental health, whereas those who averaged 7 – 7.5 hours of sleep per night had the highest levels of academic achievement (see also an earlier study reported in Best Evidence in Brief).

While the results showed that the “optimal” amount of sleep needed is different for the two developmental outcomes, the researchers note that reducing sleep for the sake of academic performance may result in a greater decline in mental health than in the decline in academic performance from increasing sleep for the sake of mental health.

Source: Adolescent sleep duration, variability, and peak levels of achievement and mental health (January 2017), Child Development DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12729