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Publication Detail
The relationship between child behaviour problems at school entrance and teenage vocabulary acquisition: A comparison of two generations of British children born 30 years apart
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Authors:
    Parsons S, Sullivan A, Moulton V, Fitzsimons E, Ploubidis GB
  • Publisher:
  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
    British Educational Research Journal
  • Status:
  • Language:
  • Keywords:
    Behaviour problems, childhood, socioeconomic inequality, vocabulary
  • Notes:
    © 2021 The Authors. British Educational Research Journal published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Educational Research Association. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Behaviour problems in early childhood have a lasting impact on cognitive development and education attainment in later adolescence and into adulthood. Here we address the relationship conduct and hyperactivity problems at school entrance, and vocabulary acquisition in adolescence. We compare performance in identical assessments across two generations of British children born 30 years apart in 1970 (n = 15,676) and 2000/2 (n = 16,628) and find that both conduct and hyperactivity problems have a negative association with later vocabulary in both generations. We take advantage of rich longitudinal birth cohort data and establish that these relationships hold once family socioeconomic status and a child’s personal characteristics and earlier vocabulary acquisition are taken into account. We also find that teenagers today achieved substantively lower scores in the vocabulary assessment compared to their counterparts born 30 years earlier, and that this holds across all categories within each of the family and individual characteristics considered in this article. As vocabulary and language skills are key prerequisites for wider learning, we discuss implications the findings have for education policies.
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