Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared.
Committed to work but vulnerable: self-perceptions and mental health in NEET 18-year olds from a contemporary British cohort
Version of Record online: 26 AUG 2015
© 2015 Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Volume 57, Issue 2, pages 196–203, February 2016
How to Cite
Goldman-Mellor, S., Caspi, A., Arseneault, L., Ajala, N., Ambler, A., Danese, A., Fisher, H., Hucker, A., Odgers, C., Williams, T., Wong, C. and Moffitt, T. E. (2016), Committed to work but vulnerable: self-perceptions and mental health in NEET 18-year olds from a contemporary British cohort. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57: 196–203. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12459
- Issue online: 21 JAN 2016
- Version of Record online: 26 AUG 2015
- Manuscript Accepted: 15 JUL 2015
- Medical Research Council. Grant Number: G1002190
- ESRC. Grant Number: RES-177-25-0013
- Jacobs Foundation
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Grant Numbers: HD061298, HD077482, T32-HD07376
- Center for Developmental Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- William T. Grant Foundation Young Investigator Award
- UKMRC Population Health Scientist fellowship. Grant Number: G1002366
- MQ Fellows Award. Grant Number: MQ14F40
- longitudinal studies;
- mental health
Labour market disengagement among youths has lasting negative economic and social consequences, yet is poorly understood. We compared four types of work-related self-perceptions, as well as vulnerability to mental health and substance abuse problems, among youths not in education, employment or training (NEET) and among their peers.
Participants were from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) longitudinal study, a nationally representative UK cohort of 2,232 twins born in 1994–1995. We measured commitment to work, job-search effort, professional/technical skills, ‘soft’ skills (e.g. teamwork, decision-making, communication), optimism about getting ahead, and mental health and substance use disorders at age 18. We also examined childhood mental health.
At age 18, 11.6% of participants were NEET. NEET participants reported themselves as committed to work and searching for jobs with greater diligence than their non-NEET peers. However, they reported fewer ‘soft’ skills (B = −0.98, p < .001) and felt less optimistic about their likelihood of getting ahead in life (B = −2.41, p < .001). NEET youths also had higher rates of concurrent mental health and substance abuse problems, but these did not explain the relationship with work-related self-perceptions. Nearly 60% of NEET (vs. 35% of non-NEET) youths had already experienced ≥1 mental health problem in childhood/adolescence. Associations of NEET status with concurrent mental health problems were independent of pre-existing mental health vulnerability.
Our findings indicate that while NEET is clearly an economic and mental health issue, it does not appear to be a motivation issue. Alongside skills, work-related self-perceptions and mental health problems may be targets for intervention and service provision among this high-risk population.