Behavioural problems among schoolchildren in Nigeria

M U Akpan, N C Ojinnaka, E Ekanem


Background. Behavioural problems among schoolchildren can pose a burden on families and society.
Objective. To determine the prevalence and pattern of behavioural problems among children living in Uyo, a town in South-South Nigeria.
Methods. A cross-sectional study was carried out among 572 pupils from six primary schools selected randomly from private and government schools in Uyo. Pupils with a normal IQ were selected using a systematic sampling method. The Rutter behavioural scale for teachers (B2) was completed by their teachers, and that for parents (A2) was completed by the parents. Student’s t-test was used to compare pairs of means, frequencies were compared using the chi-square test, and p<0.05 was taken as significant.
Results. According to the teachers’ scale 132 pupils (23.1%) had scores within the range indicating behavioural problems, compared with 103 pupils (18.0%) on the parents’ scale. This was statistically significant (χ2 = 19.8, p=0.001). Pupils in government and private schools had mean scores of 7.4 (standard deviation (SD) 6.41) and 5.12 (SD 6.26) and 7.29 (SD 5.84) and 6.96 (SD 5.76), respectively. Behavioural problems were more common among children in government schools and among those in the lower socio-economic class. Boys had significantly higher mean scores than girls, and both scales showed more boys to be disturbed. Antisocial behaviour was commonest among boys and older children.
Conclusion. There is a high prevalence of behavioural problems among primary school children in Uyo, with a predominance of antisocial behaviour. The government needs to provide appropriate services to deal with this state of affairs.


Behavioural disorders, Rutter scale, Antisocial behaviour, Childhod Neurosis

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Submitted: 18 July 2009
Published: 01 April 2010

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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)