Unhappy pupils 'act recklessly'
Young teenagers who do not like school are more likely to become involved in under-age sex and drinking, research suggests.
Happiness at school and home are key indicators of whether a child is likely to indulge in "risky" behaviour, according to a study led by researchers at Liverpool John Moores University's Centre for Public Health.
The study questioned 3,641 children aged 11 to 14 living in north-west England about sex and alcohol use, as well as asking about their general well-being, including how happy they are with the way they look, how well they get on with their parents, whether they like school and how their teachers treat them.
The findings show that children who said they do not feel school is a nice place to be are two-and-a-half times more likely to be involved in any sexual activity, and 86% more likely to be having sex. The study adds that the latter figure is not statistically significant. Pupils who said they dislike school are also more likely to drink alcohol.
The study, published in the journal Substance Abuse, Treatment, Prevention and Policy, shows that the odds of ever drinking alcohol are two-fold higher in children who said they do not like school.
Children who said they do not have a happy home life, or said they are unable to talk to parents about their problems had the highest odds of ever drinking.
The study concluded: "Clearly, children involved with risky health behaviours are most in need of guidance and support through school programmes, but they appear to be the very children who poorly engage and are thus less receptive to learning new skills."
The findings also show a strong link between alcohol and sexual activity. Children drinking once a week or more had 12-fold higher odds of any sexual activity, and 10-fold higher odds of having sex, it said.
Lead researcher Professor Mark Bellis said: "Our study identifies that the children who drink and are sexually active are also more likely to be unhappy with their school and home lives."