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Starting School Early May Impair Child's Mental Health

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on PsychCentral.

For parents of children born in late summer or early fall, a common dilemma is when to start the child in school. Is it best for the child to be the youngest or the oldest in their class cohort for the next 13 or so years?

New research now suggests that the youngest pupils in each school year group could be at risk of worse mental health than their older classmates.

Starting school young is an exciting concept for children and their families as many see this as an opportunity to stand out. However, starting young maybe a challenging milestone for children and their families. Some children will be nearing their fifth birthday as they enter kindergarten classes while others will be just four.

Now, in a U.K. study that investigated more than 2,000 children across 80 primary schools in Devon, researchers are sharing concerns about early introduction into the school system.

Investigators from the University of Exeter Medical School discovered children who are younger than their peers when they start school are more likely to develop poorer mental health, as rated by parents and teachers.

A higher score on a measure of poor mental health would indicate that children are more likely to experience common negative emotions such as worry and fear, they may have poorer relationships with their peers and be more likely to encounter issues with behavior and concentration.

Overall the effect was small, but researchers believe the additional stress of keeping up with older peers could prove a “tipping point” for vulnerable children, such as those with learning difficulties or who were born prematurely.

The research, published in the journal Child Care, Health and Development, could have implications on parents’ decisions on whether to defer their child’s school entry for a school year.

Source: PsychCentral