The association between childhood educational attainment and adult mental health and status: A thirty-year longitudinal follow up study

R. Kosik, G. Mandell, A. P. Fan, T. Nguyen, J. Chen, William W Eaton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background and objectives: Prior research and theories are predicated on the assumption that childhood education has a potentially significant effect on long-term adult mental health and status achievement, but there is little empirical data to support this view. Using a longitudinal birth cohort from birth to age 30, we investigated the association between childhood educational attainment and adult status achievement, including mental health in an American inner city population. Methods: 1820 infants (born between 1960 and 1965) were followed prospectively as part of the Collaborative Perinatal Project (CPP) and the Johns Hopkins Pathways to Adulthood Study, with multiple observations of development and an extensive adult interview. Childhood intelligence and educational ability were measured using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) and the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT) at age 7. Adult mental health was measured with the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) when the infants reached age 27–33. During the adult follow up interview, status achievement data was collected including employment, personal income, and education. Results: There were significantly negative associations between age 7 WRAT scores and all the issues regarding adult mental health, positive associations between age 7 WRAT scores and years of school completed, personal income, and employment status. There were positive associations between childhood IQ and all status achievement variables, but no association recorded between childhood IQ and adult mental health. Conclusions: Childhood education was significantly associated with adult mental health and status achievement more than 25 years later. Low scores of WRAT significantly predict poor outcomes as an adult, both in terms of mental health and status achievement. The study findings have potentially strong implications for the enactment of policy changes around the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-62
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2018



  • Childhood education
  • NCPP
  • The Johns Hopkins Pathways study
  • WRAT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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