Childhood and adolescent onset psychiatric disorders, substance use, and failure to graduate high school on time

Kyle Kennedy

Joshua Breslau, Elizabeth Miller, W-J Joanie Chung, and Julie B. Schweitzer; UC Davis School of Medicine
Journal of Psychiatric Research
June 2010

It’s no surprise that psychiatric and substance-abuse disorders have a negative impact on graduation rates, but teasing out the origins of these disorders could help to target efforts at intervention. Researchers used data collected in 2001-02 on the National Epidemiological Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions for nearly 30,000 students. After isolating the most significant indicators from commonly overlapping psychiatric and substance-abuse disorders, and adjusting for demographics and other variables, they found that one-third of students with the most common form (of three types) of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drop out or do not graduate on time. That is more than twice the percentage of students with no disorder, of whom 15.2 percent drop out. The surprise here is that ADHD appears to be more predictive of dropping out than conduct disorder, which is thought to be the most prognostic, and which refers to a group of behavioral and emotional problems that manifest in aggression and difficulty following directions (think: the student who is always acting out). But the third most predictive behavior/disorder is even more surprising: cigarette smoking. Twenty-nine percent of smokers drop out compared to drug users at 25 percent, drinkers at 20 percent, and a host of other disorders, such as mania, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, in the high-teens/low-twenties. Perhaps none of this is shocking, but teasing out the oracular effect of individual disorders—often clumped together, but requiring very different intercessions at distinctive times in a student’s education—can only serve to make interventions that much more efficient, and hopefully, effective. Get it for a fee here.

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