Child mental health and educational attainment: multiple observers and the measurement error problem

Publication type

ISER Working Paper Series

Series Number



ISER Working Paper Series


Publication date

August 5, 2011


 We examine the effect of survey measurement error on the empirical relationship between child mental health and personal and family characteristics, and between child mental health and educational progress. Our contribution is to use unique UK survey data that contains
(potentially biased) assessments of each child's mental state from three observers (parent, teacher and child), together with expert (quasi-)diagnoses, using an assumption of optimal diagnostic behaviour to adjust for reporting bias. We use three alternative restrictions to
identify the e ect of mental disorders on educational progress. Maternal education and mental health, family income, and major adverse life events, are all signi cant in explaining child mental health, and child mental health is found to have a large in uence on educational
progress. Our preferred estimate is that a 1-standard deviation reduction in `true' latent child mental health leads to a 2-5 months loss in educational progress. We also nd a strong tendency for observers to understate the problems of older children and adolescents compared to expert diagnosis.


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