Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 3–22 | Cite as

The Relationship Between School Engagement and Delinquency in Late Childhood and Early Adolescence

Empirical Research


Engagement in school is crucial for academic success and school completion. Surprisingly little research has focused on the relationship between student engagement and delinquency. This study examines whether engagement predicts subsequent school and general misconduct among 4,890 inner-city Chicago elementary school students (mean age: 11 years and 4 months; 43.3% boys; 66.5% black; 28.8% Latino). To improve upon prior research in this area, we distinguish three types of engagement (emotional, behavioral, and cognitive), examine whether the relationship between engagement and misconduct is bidirectional (misconduct also impairs engagement), and control for possible common causes of low engagement and misconduct, including peer and family relationships and relatively stable indicators of risk-proneness. Emotional and behavioral engagement predict decreases in school and general delinquency. However, cognitive engagement is associated with increases in these outcomes. School and general delinquency predict decreased engagement only in the cognitive domain. Suggestions for future research and implications for policy are discussed.


Urban education School disengagement Problem behavior Delinquency 



The authors are grateful to Helene Raskin White, the Editor, and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback on this manuscript and to Thomas Cook for providing the data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.WestatRockvilleUSA

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