Exclusion from School Linked to Poor Mental Health in Children

Boy with back to pile of school workExclusion from school, such as through suspension or expulsion, is correlated with psychological distress and increased risk of long-term mental health issues, according to a study published in the journal Psychological Medicine. The study also found children with mental health issues are more likely to experience school exclusion.

School Exclusion and Mental Health Issues

For the study, researchers gathered data on more than 5,000 children who participated in the 2004 British Child and Adolescent Mental Health Surveys, and in the 2007 follow-up. The study included data on school exclusion and on symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression, attention deficit-hyperactivity (ADHD), and anxiety.

Classroom behavioral issues were the most common reason for school exclusion. Children with learning difficulties and mental health diagnoses were more likely than other kids to be excluded from school.

Exclusion from school was correlated with an increase in mental health and learning issues. Three years later, children who had been excluded from school were more likely to have mental health issues. This suggests even a one- or two-day exclusion from school can have long-term psychological consequences.

The study found children living in socioeconomically deprived families and those in poor health were also more likely to be excluded from school. Previous research has found some groups are disproportionately excluded from school. Black children are almost four times more likely than white children to be suspended from school. In the 2013-2014 school year, 18% of black boys and 10% of black girls were suspended from school. This is compared to 5% of white boys and 2% of white girls.

The Consequences of School Exclusion

The study’s authors say being excluded from school can be a significant disruption in the lives of children and parents. Though exclusion might seem like a short-term punishment, its effects can extend far beyond the time of the suspension.

Some research has found school suspensions disrupt a school’s culture and may stigmatize excluded children. According to the 2014 Policy Statement on Expulsion and Suspension Policies in Early Childhood Settings, a joint project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Education, students who are excluded from school may be as much as 10 times more likely than other students to drop out of high school.


  1. Exclusion from school can trigger long-term psychiatric illness. (2017, August 29). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170829124507.htm
  2. Ford, T., Parker, C., Salim, J., Goodman, R., Logan, S., & Henley, W. (2017). The relationship between exclusion from school and mental health: A secondary analysis of the British Child and Adolescent Mental Health Surveys 2004 and 2007. Psychological Medicine, 1-13. doi:10.1017/s003329171700215x
  3. Spears, V. H. (2015, January 20). Kentucky study suggests that out-of-school suspensions can hamper even unpunished students. Retrieved from http://www.kentucky.com/news/local/education/article44548170.html
  4. Suspended progress: The harms of suspension and expulsion [PDF]. (2016, May). JustChildren.
  5. Toppo, G. (2016, June 7). Black students nearly 4x as likely to be suspended. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/06/07/black-students-nearly-4x-likely-suspended/85526458/

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  • Hal

    September 13th, 2017 at 10:39 AM

    I read somewhere recently that there are some school districts who now offer meditation instead of detention. Great idea! Instead of treating the behavior as something that needs to be punishing how about teaching them how to react to the situation in a completely different manner, one that is actually helpful instead of hurtful?

  • bunce

    September 16th, 2017 at 12:17 PM

    So there have to be some consequences to bad behavior though. Kids can’t think that they can run through the school and terrorize everyone just because they want to and then not have to be punished for it because there is a fear that they will then be excluded. Maybe they need some time away from that environment and those people so that internally they can work on getting to a better place. I am saying that to take that forced time away could be a time to work with a professional who could help them re prioritize or even come up with new and healthier ways to express those feelings that they are having that could be causing them to act out in the first place.

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