EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS: Comparison of School-going and Homeschooled Children

Record: Ari Neuman and Oz Guterman, “Schools and emotional and behavioral problems: A comparison of school-going and homeschooled children.” The Journal of Educational Research (2016): 1-8. [Abstract]

SummaryNeuman is senior lecturer of education at Western Galilee College, in Akko, Israel, and Guterman is a professor in the Department of Human Resources at the same university. In this article they compare the emotional and behavioral problems, depression, and attachment security of school-going and homeschooled children in Israel.

The authors begin with a literature review examining the impact of school attendance on children’s well-being. For example, aspects of schooling such as exam stress, bullying, and social rejection all contribute to emotional and behavioral problems in children. Homeschooling children on the other hand are frequently criticized for not having adequate exposure to their peer groups. Therefore, Guterman and Neuman seek to investigate whether students in one of these groups have more social and emotional problems.

The sample for this study consists of 101 children. 36 studied in schools, and 65 were homeschooled for at least 3 years. There were 42 girls and 59 boys ranging from 6 to 12 years old. Statistical analysis revealed no differences between the homeschooled and school-going groups in terms of the dominant parent’s education, family income, or religiosity. The sample was found through announcements at weekly homeschooling meetings across the country. Since the homeschooling population is so small in Israel, most homeschoolers attend these weekly meetings. The researchers then sought out comparable families in the public school system.

In terms of depression, Guterman and Neuman found that children attending school had a greater level of depression according to the Child Depression Inventory at a statistically significant level. Children attending school were also more likely to display emotional and behavioral problems according to the standardized Child Behavior Checklist. Especially as children aged, students attending traditional schools were more likely to possess externalizing problems such as delinquency and violation of rules.

There are several possible interpretations of these findings. First, they could be the result of the school environment. Many homeschooling parents homeschool their children because of the supposed negative influences at school, and these results of increased depression and emotional/behavioral problems could be used to support that position. However, it is also possible that the results are due to differences in the home environments. Perhaps having a parent who did not work was the underlying difference instead of the type of schooling. It must be remembered that these results demonstrate correlation and the not the cause of the increased problems in the school-going children.

Appraisal: These findings from Israel are consistent with several studies conducted in the United States. For example, Vaughn et al. (2015), Thomson & Jang (2016), and Green-Hennessy (2016) all indicate that homeschoolers are less likely to partake in underage drinking and drug use. Furthermore, Medlin (2013) indicates that homeschoolers are less likely to have behavior problems.

This study by Neuman and Guterman, however, has a couple of unique findings. For example, this is the first study to my knowledge (besides the dreadfully designed study of Drenosky & Cohen, 2012) which has compared levels of depression between school-attending and homeschooled students. Furthermore, since both the homeschoolers and school-attenders were similarly non-religious, the findings are a bit different from the drug and alcohol studies discussed above which found that when controlled for religiosity, public schoolers and homeschoolers use drugs and alcohol at a similar rate. It would be very interesting to see this study replicated in an American context in the future.

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