An Investigation of Adolescent Psychosocial Factors and Disengagement from Education and Employment Among Individuals with Common Mental Health Problems
Background: Participation in employment and education have been highlighted as key to health and wellbeing. Adolescents with common mental health problems are at risk of being “not in education, employment or training” (NEET) in young adulthood which negatively influences their life chances. Therefore, it is important to address the determinants of education and employment outcomes for this population. Methods: A systematic review and meta-analyses focusing on adolescent psychosocial factors associated with participation in education and employment in young adulthood was completed. This was followed by a quantitative analysis of data from the Next Steps cohort study using waves 2 and 8 which supplied evidence on 2,224 adolescents with common mental health problems in England, United Kingdom. Different statistical techniques were used to examine associations. Results: Fourteen articles were included in the systematic review providing evidence on adolescent psychosocial factors that mapped into seven domains, namely, behavioral problems, peer problems, substance use, prosocial skills, self-evaluations, aspirations, and physical activity. Secondary data analysis suggested that adolescents with common mental health problems who were disengaged as young adults were more likely to be female, have lower socioeconomic status, live in single/no parent households, and have caring responsibilities. Lower self-esteem, external locus of control, no job aspirations, and low/no physical activity increased the likelihood of becoming NEET whereas more positive attitudes to school and avoiding being bullied decreased the likelihood after adjustment for background characteristics. Conclusion: Psychosocial factors play an important role in disengagement from education and employment after compulsory education for adolescents with common mental health problems. School-based interventions during secondary school focusing on psychosocial factors, particularly physical activity could be helpful. The findings encourage provision of targeted mental health support at school, community, and clinical settings to prevent undesired educational and employment outcomes and improve life chances for at-risk youth.