Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College, London, conducted a survey of over 10,000 school children in England, Scotland and Wales.
The researchers asked teachers, parents and the pupils themselves about the children's behaviour, activity levels, relationships with other pupils and social behaviour.
In England and Wales, the youngest children in the school year are those born in the months leading up to the end of August, while the oldest are born in September. In Scotland, the oldest in the school year are born in March and the youngest in February.
After analysing the mental health scores from the survey, the researchers found that in England and Wales children born in the summer months were significantly more likely to have suffered from a mental disorder than the oldest children in the school year.
And, despite the differences in the education system, a similar trend was seen in Scotland, say the researchers, who add that a child's age, relative to their peers, rather than the season they were born in, influences mental health.
Writing in the current edition of the British Medical Journal, the authors of the report say that previous studies suggest that teachers often forget to make allowances for relative age and should adopt a more flexible approach to a child's progression through school.
"Interventions such as calling the register in birth order or grouping children in the classroom by relative age may help to sensitise teachers to the age position of individual children within the class, thereby reducing the likelihood of unrealistic expectations being placed on younger children," they write.
They add that streaming children according to their relative age within each year may also be helpful, as may allowing children who are struggling to repeat a year.
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Last updated: 08/29/2003 - 11:04 PM