Literacy and Behaviour (updated 2018)
Dr Kerry Hempenstall, Senior Industry Fellow, School of Education, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.
First published Oct 29/10/2012, updated 30/4/2018
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The relationship between literacy and behaviour problems is a vexed area, as it is difficult to discern which might be cause and which effect.
In a follow-up article, I address the research on literacy and mental health problems in general.
Some quotes from the research:
"Behaviour problems among children with learning disorders are about 3 times than the norm by 8 years of age" ( p.295).
Mash, E.J., & Wolfe, D.A. (2002). Abnormal child psychology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Thomson Learning.
"These results provide evidence for the role of mastery of reading achievement in aggressive behavior, particularly in boys, and in depression, particularly in girls. The preventive trials provide evidence of the direction of effects, and the reversibility of the aggressive behavior and depressive symptoms in some children by raising the level of reading achievement. ... The results also add improving reading as a key element, at least, in preventing not only the consequences of poor achievement such as depressive symptoms and possible disorder, but also reducing aggressive behavior and its consequences in delinquency, drug abuse, and school drop out."
Kellam, S.G. (1999). Developmental epidemiologically-based prevention research: From efficacy to effectiveness. National Institute of Mental Health Fifth Annual National Conference on Prevention Research. Retrieved from http://www.oslc.org/spr/ecpn/nckellam.html.
“ … young urban children as young as second and third grade with reading difficulties exhibited elevated rates of problem behaviors, as compared to the nationally representative norm samples of the measures. In this study, a disproportionate percentage of the young urban sample already displayed clinically significant levels of anxiety (50%), social problems (40%), and oppositional behaviors (30%) in the classroom. These results thus support previous studies conducted mainly with older children showing that anxiety, social problems, and conduct problems were closely associated with literacy difficulties (Casey et al., 1992; Conners, 1997; Willcutt & Pennington, 2000). These finding are also consistent with research showing that kindergarten academic variables have been shown to predict problem behavior at the end of elementary school (McIntosh, Chard, Boland, & Horner, 2006), with an increasing relationship over years of schooling (see Algozzine, Wang, & Violette, 2011 for contradictory evidence). The significance of these findings for teachers is highlighted by arguments that “dual deficits of learning and behavior problems may make it difficult for practitioners to provide effective instruction” (Sutherland, Lewis-Palmer, Stichter, & Morgan, 2008, p. 223).” (p. 199-200)
Pierce, M.E., Wechsler-Zimring, A., Noam, G., Wolf, M., & Tami Katzir, T. (2013). Behavioral problems and reading difficulties among language minority and monolingual urban elementary school students. Reading Psychology, 34(2), 182-205.
“Research has demonstrated a strong positive correlation between behavior problems and low academic achievement (Gest & Gest, 2005; Landrum, Tankersley, & Kauffman, 2003). Above and beyond being correlated, Payne, Marks, and Bogan (2007) report that behavioral and academic problems are reciprocal in nature. In other words, behavior problems may cause a disruption in academic engagement and, as a result, students may fail to master skills because of this lack of academic engagement. The opposite is also true—a classroom where there are high levels of academic achievement will be a classroom with low levels of behavior difficulties. This point is critical. Students do not generally come to school hating to be there. If students experience more failure than success, they frequently learn to hate school. As Scott, Nelson, and Liaupsin (2001) note, “academics become aversive” (p. 313). Therefore, the more students find the classroom aversive, the more likely they will be to exhibit unwanted behaviors (Payne et al., 2007; Scott et al., 2001; Wehby, Lane, & Falk, 2003). Student success or failure are in large part determined by how well teachers provide effective instruction to their students.” (p. 242)
Martella, R.C., & Marchand-Martella, N.E. (2015). Improving classroom behavior through effective instruction: An illustrative program example using SRA FLEX Literacy. Education and Treatment of Children, 38(2), 241–272.
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