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Teens' Externalizing Behavior Linked to Adulthood Troubles

Teens with conduct problems in school more likely to drop out, have family, financial difficulties

FRIDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Adolescents who showed externalizing behavior in school were more likely to face a variety of problems across their adult lives, including financial and family difficulties, according to research published online Jan. 8 in BMJ.

Ian Colman, Ph.D., of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and colleagues analyzed data from 3,652 participants in a study cohort born in England, Scotland or Wales in 1946, whose behavior was assessed at ages 13 and 15. The group was studied frequently into their young adult lives, as well as several times up to the age of 53. Externalizing behavior was defined by teacher reports of problems such as disobedience and truancy.

The researchers found that teens with severe or mild externalizing behavior were more likely to leave school before completion (adjusted odds ratios, 4.0 and 2.3, respectively). Teens with mild or severe problems were more likely to become teenage parents, and they were more likely to become divorced or be unhappy with family life. Those with severe problems were more likely to have financial difficulties than those with no externalizing behavior, the report indicates.

"The results of this prospective population-based study suggest that adolescents who engage in externalizing behavior experience multiple social and health impairments that adversely affect them throughout adult life. Given the long-term costs to society and the distressing impact on the adolescents themselves, our results might have considerable implications for public health policy," the authors conclude.

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