A new study by researchers at Australian Catholic University (ACU) has shown that Year 7 students suspended from school are twice as likely to start smoking cigarettes 12 months later.
“Get tough approaches to challenging student behaviour have intuitive appeal but may have harmful consequences for students in the long run,” said lead researcher and Professor of Psychology, Dr Sheryl Hemphill.
“Whenever a student is getting into trouble at school one of the first questions we need to ask is why the student is behaving that way.”
“Once we work that out, we need to assist the student to access appropriate assistance if needed.”
The impact of suspension was unique of other known influences such as family conflict, hanging around with friends who get into trouble and poor bonding to school.
The study, published recently in the international journal Health Education and Behavior, draws on data from the International Youth Development Study, a longitudinal study of 5,769 students from Victoria, Australia, and Washington State, United States.
The study asked Years 7 and 9 students about their experience of school suspension, cigarette use, and a range of factors known to influence student behaviour.
The longitudinal study found that rates of school suspension were higher in Washington State (12%) than Victoria (6%) in Year 7. However for Year 9 students, rates were similar in the two states (11% in Victoria and 10% in Washington State).
The research is part of an ongoing collaboration between Australian Catholic University, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, The University of Melbourne, Deakin University, the Centre for Adolescent Health at The Royal Childrens Hospital, Melbourne, and University of Washington, USA.
It is hoped the study will help focus attention on the way challenging student behaviour is managed in schools and to generate discussion of alternative approaches that may be more effective for students in the long term.