November 13, 2008

The effect of childhood conduct disorder on human capital

Probleemgedrag op jonge leeftijd sterk nadelig voor kans op onderwijssucces

Press release
Jongeren die een antisociale gedragsstoornis hebben of in aanraking zijn geweest met de politie, zijn veel minder succesvol in het onderwijs dan hun leeftijdsgenoten. Ook blijken zij op latere leeftijd vaker agressief of crimineel gedrag te vertonen.

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This paper estimates the longer-term effects of childhood conduct disorder on human capital accumulation and violent and criminal behaviour later in life using data of Australian twins. 

We measure conduct disorder with a rich set of indicators based on diagnostic criteria from psychiatry (e.g., aggression to people and animals, destruction of property, deceitfulness or theft, and/or serious violations of rules). Using ordinary least squares (OLS) and twin fixed effects (FE) estimation approaches, we find that early (pre-18) conduct disorder problems significantly affect both human capital accumulation and violent and criminal behaviour over the life course. For instance, within pairs of identical twins we find that conduct disorder reduces the probability of high school graduation with 4 to 13 percent points and increases the probability of being arrested with 7 to 16 percent points. Robustness checks suggest that these estimates may be lower bounds of the true effects of conduct disorder.

In addition, we find that conduct disorder is more deleterious if these behaviours occur earlier in life. We conclude that childhood mental health problems have high human and financial costs for families and society at large. Effective treatments early in life might yield high returns.


Suncica Vujic
Pierre Koning
Dinand Webbink
N. Martin

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