Classroom Environment May Affect Kids' Mental
WEDNESDAY, March 9 (HealthDay News) -- First-grade classrooms
with poor environments -- not enough resources, teachers who feel
disrespected by colleagues -- have been linked to a higher number
of mental health problems in students, according to a new
The study doesn't prove that classrooms that face more
challenges directly cause mental health problems in kids. However,
"being in a classroom with a lack of resources might adversely
impact children's mental health because children are frustrated or
disheartened by their surroundings," said study lead author Melissa
A. Milkie, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland.
"Teachers also may be more discouraged or harsh when they can't teach properly due to the fact that they are missing key elements," she explained in a news release from the American Sociological Association
Milkie said the study shows that schools and teachers play
important roles in children's mental health. "I think parents care
a lot about their children's mental health -- their emotional and
behavioral well-being -- but we as a society don't tend to focus on
that as an important educational outcome nearly as much as we talk
about and think about academic outcomes," Milkie said.
The study is based on interviews with the parents and teachers
of about 10,700 first-graders in the United States. The researchers
found that students in classrooms with fewer resources, in terms of
inadequate teaching materials and teachers who didn't feel
supported by colleagues, were more likely to experience problems in
several mental health areas. The areas considered in the study
included attentiveness, fighting, anxiety and sadness, and the
formation of friendships.
"For teachers to get the support and encouragement that they need from colleagues, including the principal, is likely important for whether the teachers are able to create a classroom climate that helps children thrive," Milkie said. "If teachers are feeling stressed out because they aren't getting what they need from their colleagues, that stress may carry over to the kids."
Although the current study only looked at students in first
grade, Milkie suspects the findings would be similar in higher
grades. "I would be surprised if there were different findings for
older children, but our study only looks at first-graders so we
can't be certain," she said.
The study is published in the March issue of the
Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
For more about
children's mental health, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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