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Risk and protective factors for absenteeism in a rural northwest school

1 January 2016


School absence has become a growing concern in some regions of the United States, particularly in rural and low-SES environments (Hammond, 2014). School absence and chronic absenteeism are related to a variety of negative outcomes including poor academic achievement and behavioral problems (Eaton, Brener, & Kann, 2008; Houck, Hadley, Tolou-Shams, & Brown, 2012; Kearney, 2008). Therefore, it is important to examine risk and protective factors affecting school absenteeism. The purpose of the present study was to examine several risk and protective factors associated with absence from school and school achievement in a rural community within the state of Oregon, including mental health, sense of belonging in school, and physical health, as well as a variety of demographic variables. Factors associated with living in a rural environment were also examined in relation to school absence. The Psychological Sense of School Membership (Goodenow, 1993) and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (Goodman, 2005), as well as a demographics questionnaire, were administered to 132 high school students and follow-up attendance data were obtained from the school. Results indicated that a poor sense of school belonging, increased mental health concerns, and poor physical health were all associated with increased absence from school. Additionally, mental health partially mediated the relationship between sense of belonging and school absence. Furthermore, although there were no differences between Caucasian students and those who identify as ethnic or racial minorities, racial and ethnic minority students reported significantly lower sense of belonging scores and higher rates of mental health problems than did Caucasian students.


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