Childhood and adolescent onset psychiatric disorders, substance use, and failure to graduate high school on time

J Psychiatr Res. 2011 Mar;45(3):295-301. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2010.06.014. Epub 2010 Jul 16.


We examined the joint predictive effects of childhood and adolescent onset psychiatric and substance use disorders on failure to graduate high school (HS) on time. Structured diagnostic interviews were conducted with a US national sample of adults (18 and over). The analysis sample included respondents with at least 8 years of education who were born in the US or arrived in the US prior to age 13 (N = 29,662). Psychiatric disorders, substance use and substance use disorders were examined as predictors of termination or interruption of educational progress prior to HS graduation, with statistical adjustment for demographic characteristics and childhood adversities. Failure to graduate HS on time was more common among respondents with any of the psychiatric and substance use disorders examined, ranging from 18.1% (specific phobia) to 33.2% (ADHD-combined type), compared with respondents with no disorder (15.2%). After adjustment for co-occurring disorders, significant associations with failure to graduate on time remained only for conduct disorder (OR = 1.89, 95% CI 1.57-2.26) and the three ADHD subtypes (Inattentive OR = 1.78, 95% CI 1.44-2.20, Hyperactive-Impulsive OR = 1.38, 95% CI 1.14-1.67, and Combined OR = 2.06, 95% CI 1.66-2.56). Adjusting for prior disorders, tobacco use was associated with failure to graduate on time (OR = 1.97, 95% CI 1.80-2.16). Among substance users, substance use disorders were not associated with on-time graduation. The findings suggest that the adverse impact of childhood and adolescent onset psychiatric disorders on HS graduation is largely accounted for by problems of conduct and inattention. Adjusting for these disorders, smoking remains strongly associated with failure to graduate HS on time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Developmental Disabilities / epidemiology
  • Developmental Disabilities / psychology*
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Schools
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Young Adult