Associations between developmental risk profiles, mental disorders, and student absences among primary and secondary students in Australia
School Mental Health
Australian Government Department of Health Telethon Kids Institute Australian Research Council
ARC Number : CE140100027
This study assessed if the association between mental disorders and higher student absences varies across different profiles of risk factors, and estimated the proportion of student absences associated with mental disorders. Data included responses from a nationally representative Australian survey of child and adolescent mental health (Young Minds Matter, N = 5,081). A latent class analysis identified four classes of multiple risk exposure for students and their families, including On Track (55%), Low Resources (22%), Child Concerns (15%), and Overwhelmed (7%). Negative binomial regression models with adjustment for misclassification probabilities showed that absence rate ratios were higher among students classified as Low Resources (1.8 times), Child Concerns (1.7 times), or Overwhelmed (3.0 times) than On Track students. Overall, students with an anxiety or depressive disorder had 1.2 times as many absences as students without a disorder, after adjusting for latent class membership. There was no support for the hypothesis that the association between anxiety/depressive disorder and absences would be greater for students experiencing multiple risk exposures. Behavioral disorders were not associated with higher absences. Mental disorders accounted for approximately 8.6% of absences among secondary students (Years 7–12) and 2.4% of absences among primary students (Years 1–6). The estimated contribution of mental disorders to school absences is not trivial; however, the contribution is about half that estimated by previous research. The educational impacts of mental disorders must be considered in conjunction with the broader social contexts related to both mental disorders and student absences.