Teen behaviour more influenced by school than where they live

Teen behaviour more influenced by school than where they live

Using data from the Growing Up in Ireland study, the findings show that most 17-year-olds have no behaviour difficulties and few consistently ‘act out’ at home, at school, and in the community.

Schools matter more for influencing teenagers' behaviour than where they live, new research suggests.

Behaviour patterns tended to vary depending on the specific second-level school young people attended but the neighbourhood they lived in made much less difference.

The findings are included in new research published by the ESRI produced in partnership with the Department of Children. Using data from the Growing Up in Ireland study, the findings show that most 17-year-olds have no behaviour difficulties and few consistently ‘act out’ at home, at school, and in the community.

The study also found marked gender differences were found in types of behaviour - acting out, like externalising behaviour at home, school-based misbehaviour and antisocial behaviour, was more common among young men. 

Young women were more likely to internalise their difficulties, with their tendency to do so increasing significantly between the age of 13 and 17. 

Socio-economic disadvantage

The study also found that socio-economic disadvantage among families was linked to behaviour difficulties at home but did not make a difference to anti-social behaviour or misbehaviour at school.

The quality of relationships with teachers emerged as a particularly important factor, with having at least one adult to talk to about any problems was consistently associated with better behaviour outcomes for young people. 

Young people who disliked school and school subjects, who were frequently given out to by their teachers and who did worse academically had poorer behaviour. 

Positive relationships with parents and friends emerged as important protective factors, and difficult relationships between teenagers and their parents tended to be linked to behaviour problems, the study also found. 

Access to local facilities in a safe neighbourhood was also found to have protective effects on adolescent behaviour, highlighting the importance of local service provision for young people. 

Emer Smyth, one of the report’s authors, said the findings relate to young people's lives, before the pandemic. 

"The mental health and wellbeing of young people has been disproportionately affected by the period of restrictions which makes it all the more important to support young people’s wellbeing by providing a supportive school environment and an engaging experience of education." 

The report will be launched today by Roderic O'Gorman, Minister for Children. 

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