The BBC Education Website reports on a study from the American Journal of Child Development which claims that the link between anti-social behaviour and poor reading skills in teenagers has been found in children as young as seven.
"Those who had difficulties at age five with readiness to read, such as a small vocabulary and poor verbal skills, became increasingly involved in anti-social behaviour - mainly bullying others, telling lies, stealing," said research co-author Dr Terrie Moffitt.
"Their reading skills had gone down as well".
There is also a suggestion that the causal chain of events works the other way around...
"...a child who starts school with problem behaviour would be predisposed to poor reading skills".
Rather predictably, these ones also fell further behind with reading.
Dr. Moffitt concludes:
"So in answer to which is the chicken and which is the egg, it doesn't really matter - poor cognitive skills would predispose a child to become aggressive.
She then goes on to say:
"To our surprise we found genetics did not explain it. It's an environmental process, such as what goes on in the classroom, and this is important because it can be changed."
Too right, we Home Educators would say! And we think we know the answer. Please miss, please miss...we know!!!
You see, what seems to work for many of the autonomously HE'd boys round here is that they aren't pestered to read before they want to, and whatever age that happens to be, (commonly from seven onwards), it seems to correlate very well with reading readiness. In the meantime, they don't lack for an education. They acquire information aurally from any number of different sources, conversation, being read to, tapes, TV, computers etc. They commit facts to memory. They have meaningful conversations about subjects that interest them, during which they develop the skills of framing an argument, retaining a train of thought, trying to nail ideas accurately in the spoken word, being logical, self-critical and truth seeking.
They don't lose out or start to feel inadequate. They don't feel the need to bully or develop other anti-social behaviours. And when they are actually ready to read, they go for it and catch up quickly.
But what do I know...I don't have a degree in ed. psych, so my observations of the seemingly glaringly obvious are most probably wrong!
The researchers seem to think so. They say that their findings..
"indicate that academic intervention can have a positive effect on behaviour. Programmes that target either reading problems or behaviour problems during the pre-school and early primary school years are likely to produce changes in both areas, the research concludes".
Perhaps there is an argument to be made for the kids who arrive at school without good moral theories, but for those who turn aggressive because of the pressures of schooling, yet more schooling is unlikely to be the answer.