MONDAY, March 10, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Students who have to repeat a grade can cause discipline problems among their classmates, a new study indicates.
Researchers looked at nearly 80,000 seventh graders in 334 North Carolina middle schools, and discovered that the numbers of grade repeaters and older students varied widely among the schools.
They also found that having a higher number of grade repeaters was associated with more suspensions and higher rates of discipline problems such as substance abuse, fighting and classroom disruption among other students.
For example, if 20 percent of students in seventh grade were older than their peers, there was a 200 percent higher chance that other students would misbehave or be suspended, according to the study, which was published online recently in the journal Teachers College Record.
Although the study showed an association between the number of repeat students and discipline problems among their classmates, it did not establish a cause-and-effect link.
White students and girls of all races appeared to be most likely to have discipline problems when there was a large number of repeat students. Further research is needed to determine why this is the case, the researchers said.
"The decision to retain students has consequences for the whole school community," study author Clara Muschkin, an associate director at Duke University's Center for Child and Family Policy, said in a university news release. "That wider effect is an issue worth considering as we debate this policy."
The findings suggest that educators need to do more to provide academic help -- such as tutoring, summer school and peer mentoring -- to students who have to repeat a grade, she said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers advice about disciplining your child.