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Understanding Girls’ Disengagement: Identifying Patterns and the Role of Teacher and Peer Support using Latent Growth Modeling

  • Emma C. Burns
  • Keiko C. P. Bostwick
  • Rebecca J. Collie
  • Andrew J. MartinEmail author
Empirical Research

Abstract

Previous work has established a significant increase in disengagement as students progress through secondary school. This work has also established that rates of disengagement appear to be higher among boys, leading to an increased focus on the underlying causes and factors associated with disengagement within this population. However, less is known about the patterns of disengagement exhibited by girls. Given that disengagement is consistently associated with negative personal and academic outcomes, it is important to more closely examine the disengagement trajectories of girls. Moreover, it critical to identify factors that buffer the effects of disengagement that are the most effective for girls. Classroom interpersonal support from teachers and peers have been identified as factors that are likely to mitigate disengagement among girls. The present investigation examined longitudinal data from Australian adolescent girls (N = 302, age range 12–16 years old). Latent growth modeling was used to examine the extent to which disengagement was increasing among secondary school girls in Australia, as well as the effects of teacher and peer social support in slowing this increase. The results showed that disengagement significantly increased across 3 years and that teacher support (but not peer support) was associated with a reduction in girls’ upward disengagement trajectories. The results of the current study provide much-needed insight about the developmental trajectories of disengagement among adolescent girls and the role of teachers in buffering these problematic trajectories.

Keywords

Disengagement Teacher support Peer support Adolescent development Girls’ education Latent growth modeling 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank Dr Marianne Mansour for assisting with data collection.

Authors' Contributions

E.C.B. conceived the study, participated in the design of the study, performed statistical analysis, drafted the initial manuscript, and participated in extensive editing of the manuscript; K.C.P.B. conceived the study, participated in the design of the study, performed statistical analysis, and participated in extensive editing of the manuscript; R.J.C. participated in the design of the study, assisted with conceptualizing, contributed to statistical analysis, and participated in extensive editing of the manuscript; A.J.M. received the funding for this study, participated in the design of the study, assisted with conceptualizing, contributed to statistical analysis, and participated in extensive editing of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript and supplementary materials.

Funding

This study was funded by the Australian Research Council (Grant #DP140104294).

Data Sharing and Declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available, in line with the study’s institutional ethics approval and parent/participant consent.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The disengagement measure in the study is one part of a longer commercially available instrument authored by A.J.M.; no fee was involved in its use for this study. The authors report no other conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in the current study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. As the study included minors, informed consent was also obtained from a parent or guardian for each individual participant.

Supplementary material

10964_2019_986_MOESM1_ESM.doc (74 kb)
Supplementary Information

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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