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

By Tim Cadman, Amanda Hughes, Caroline Wright, Jose Lopez-Lopez, Tim T. Morris, Frances Rice, George Davey Smith, Laura D Howe

Posted 23 May 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.21.20108928

Previous research on the relationship between childrens externalising and depressive symptoms, experience of school, and later academic attainment is inconclusive. The present study uses data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (n=6,409) to investigate bidirectional associations between school experience (enjoyment and connectedness) and externalising and depressive symptoms at age 10-11 and 13-14. We also investigate the relationship between school experience and academic attainment at 16 and test whether school experience mediates associations of externalising and depressive symptoms with later attainment. A cross-lagged structural equation model was employed. Externalising and depressive symptoms at 10-11 were negatively associated with school connectedness at 13-14 (externalizing: standardised {beta}=-0.13, CI: -0.17, -0.08; depressive: {beta}=-0.06, CI: -0.11, 0.01), and with school enjoyment at 13-14 (externalising: {beta}=-0.08, CI: -0.13, -0.03; depressive {beta}=-0.04, -0.08, 0.03). School enjoyment at 13-14 was positively associated with attainment at 16 ({beta}=0.10, CI: 0.04, 0.15), and partially mediated associations between externalising and depressive symptoms at 10-11 and attainment at 16 (externalising: proportion mediated; 4.7%, CI: 0.7, 10.1, depressive: proportion mediated 2.2%, I: -1.5, 5.9). School enjoyment is a potentially modifiable risk factor that may affect educational attainment of adolescents with depressive and externalising symptoms.

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