Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 156–166 | Cite as

School Disengagement as a Predictor of Dropout, Delinquency, and Problem Substance Use During Adolescence and Early Adulthood

  • Kimberly L. Henry
  • Kelly E. Knight
  • Terence P. Thornberry
Empirical Research


Over the past 5 years, a great deal of attention has been paid to the development of early warning systems for dropout prevention. These warning systems use a set of indicators based on official school records to identify youth at risk for dropout and then appropriately target intervention. The current study builds on this work by assessing the extent to which a school disengagement warning index predicts not only dropout but also other problem behaviors during middle adolescence, late adolescence, and early adulthood. Data from the Rochester Youth Development Study (N = 911, 73% male, 68% African American, and 17% Latino) were used to examine the effects of a school disengagement warning index based on official 8th and 9th grade school records on subsequent dropout, as well as serious delinquency, official offending, and problem substance use during middle adolescence, late adolescence, and early adulthood. Results indicate that the school disengagement warning index is robustly related to dropout as well as serious problem behaviors across the three developmental stages, even after controlling for important potential confounders. High school dropout mediates the effect of the warning index on serious problem behaviors in early adulthood.


School disengagement Delinquency Substance use Urban Development Risk and protective factors 



Support for the Rochester Youth Development Study has been provided by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (86-JN-CX-0007), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA005512, K01 DA017810), and the National Science Foundation (SBR-9123299, SES-9123299). Work on this project was also aided by grants to the Center for Social and Demographic Analysis at the University at Albany from NICHD (P30-HD32041) and NSF (SBR-9512290). Official arrest data was provided electronically by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Points of view, conclusions, and methodological strategies in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the funding agencies or data sources.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kimberly L. Henry
    • 1
  • Kelly E. Knight
    • 2
  • Terence P. Thornberry
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.College of Criminal JusticeSam Houston State UniversityHuntsvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Criminology and Criminal JusticeUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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