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The effect of childhood conduct disorder on human capital

  • Suncica Vujic


  • Pierre Koning


  • Dinand Webbink


  • N. Martin

This paper estimates the longer-term effects of childhood conduct disorder on human capital accumulation and violent and criminal behaviour later in life using data of Australian twins. We measure conduct disorder with a rich set of indicators based on diagnostic criteria from psychiatry (e.g., aggression to people and animals, destruction of property, deceitfulness or theft, and/or serious violations of rules). Using ordinary least squares (OLS) and twin fixed effects (FE) estimation approaches, we find that early (pre-18) conduct disorder problems significantly affect both human capital accumulation and violent and criminal behaviour over the life course. For instance, within pairs of identical twins we find that conduct disorder reduces the probability of high school graduation with 4 to 13 percent points and increases the probability of being arrested with 7 to 16 percent points. Robustness checks suggest that these estimates may be lower bounds of the true effects of conduct disorder. In addition, we find that conduct disorder is more deleterious if these behaviours occur earlier in life. We conclude that childhood mental health problems have high human and financial costs for families and society at large. Effective treatments early in life might yield high returns.

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Paper provided by CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis in its series CPB Discussion Paper with number 113.

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Date of creation: Nov 2008
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Handle: RePEc:cpb:discus:113
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  1. James J. Heckman & Dimitriy V. Masterov, 2007. "The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children ," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 29(3), pages 446-493.
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  12. Le, Anh T. & Miller, Paul W. & Heath, Andrew C. & Martin, Nick, 2005. "Early childhood behaviours, schooling and labour market outcomes: estimates from a sample of twins," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 1-17, February.
  13. Jason M. Fletcher, 2008. "Adolescent depression: diagnosis, treatment, and educational attainment," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(11), pages 1215-1235.
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  16. Slade, Eric P. & Wissow, Lawrence S., 2007. "The influence of childhood maltreatment on adolescents' academic performance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 604-614, October.
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