The role of school enjoyment and connectedness in the association between depressive and externalising symptoms and academic attainment: Findings from a UK prospective cohort study

Tim Cadman*, Amanda M M Hughes, Caroline L Wright, Jose A Lopez-Lopez, Tim T Morris, Frances Rice, George Davey Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Background: Previous research on the relationship between children’s depressive and externalising symptoms, experience of school, and academic attainment is inconclusive. The aims of this study were (i) to test bidirectional associations between children’s school experience and depressive and externalising symptoms at age 10-11 and 13-14, (ii) to ascertain whether school experience age 13-14 is associated with academic attainment age 16, and (iii) to test whether school experience mediates the relationship between depressive or externalising symptoms and attainment. Methods: Data was used from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (n=6,409). A cross-lagged model was used to investigate bidirectional associations between school experience (enjoyment and connectedness) and depression and externalising at age 10-11 and 13-14. The same framework was used to test if school experience aged 13-14 mediated associations of depressive and externalising symptoms with later attainment.

Results: Depressive and externalising symptoms at 10-11 were negatively associated with school connectedness (depressive: standardised β=-0.06, CI: -0.11, 0.01; externalizing: β=-0.13, CI: -0.17, -0.08), and school enjoyment at 13-14 (depressive β=-0.04, -0.08, 0.03; externalising: β=-0.08, CI: -0.13, -0.03). School enjoyment at 13-14 was positively associated with attainment at 16 (β=0.10, CI: 0.04, 0.15), and partially mediated associations between depressive and externalising symptoms at 10-11 and attainment at 16 (depressive: proportion mediated 2.2%, CI: -1.5, 5.9; externalising: proportion mediated; 4.7%, CI: 0.7, 10.1,).

Limitations: Results may be subject to residual confounding. Conclusions: School enjoyment is a potentially modifiable risk factor that may affect educational attainment of adolescents with depressive or externalising symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)974-980
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume295
Early online date8 Sep 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The UK Medical Research Council and Wellcome (Grant ref: 217065/Z/19/Z) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. This publication is the work of the authors and will serve as guarantors for the contents of this paper. A comprehensive list of grants funding is available on the ALSPAC website ( http://www.bristol.ac.uk/alspac/external/documents/grant-acknowledgements.pdf ); This research was specifically funded by the UK Medical Research Council (MR/M020894/1) and the Health Foundation's Social and Economic Value of Health Programme (Grant ID: 807293). The Medical Research Council (MRC) and the University of Bristol support the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit (MC_UU_00011/1). TC received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 733206, LIFE-CYCLE project. AH received funding from the Health Foundation's Social and Economic Value of Health programme, grant number: 807293. LDH is supported by a Career Development Award from the UK Medical Research Council (MR/M020894/1). This work is part of a project entitled ‘social and economic consequences of health: causal inference methods and longitudinal, intergenerational data’, which is part of the Health Foundation's Social and Economic Value of Health Programme (Grant ID: 807293). The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK. JALL was supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council [grant number ES/P00881X/1]. Dr Wright is funded by a Cancer Research UK Population Research Postdoctoral Fellowship (C60153/A23895). GDS works in the Medical Research Council Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol [MC_UU_00011/1].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021

Keywords

  • ALSPAC
  • school enjoyment
  • school connectedness
  • education
  • depression
  • externalising

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