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Towards a comprehensive assessment of school absenteeism: development and initial validation of the inventory of school attendance problems

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Abstract

School attendance problems (SAPs) become manifest in many ways and are associated with multiple risk factors, calling for comprehensive assessment methods. This study documents the development of the inventory of school attendance problems (ISAP), which assesses both the quality and the function of a broad spectrum of SAPs by first asking students with SAPs to rate the intensity of symptoms prior to or at school and then to rate their impact on school attendance. An empirically generated pool of 124 items was analyzed (explorative factor analysis) using a clinical sample of N = 245 students with SAPs (53.5% male; Mage: 14.4). The Youth Self Report (YSR), a German version of the School Refusal Assessment Scale (SRAS), and the extent of school absenteeism were used to determine construct validity. The resulting 48 items loaded on 13 factors. The 13 scales assess internalizing and externalizing symptoms (Depression, Social Anxiety, Performance Anxiety, Agoraphobia/Panic, Separation Anxiety, Somatic Complaints, Aggression, School Aversion/Attractive Alternatives) as well as emotional distress due to problems in the school or family context (Problems with Teachers, Dislike of the Specific School, Problems with Peers, Problems Within the Family, Problems with Parents). All scales showed good internal consistencies. Their correlations with the YSR and the SRAS indicated convergent and discriminant validity. Positive associations between most of the scales and the extent of school absenteeism were obtained. Although preliminary, these results support the usefulness of the ISAP for a comprehensive assessment of SAPs in clinical settings.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank all patients and their parents who took part in this study. Furthermore, we would like to thank Prof. Dr. Christoph U. Correll (Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics, and Psychotherapy, Charité Clinic, Berlin) for his help on the translation of the items of the ISAP into English.

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Correspondence to Martin Knollmann.

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This study has been approved by the ethics committee of the University of Duisburg-Essen and has been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments. All persons gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Knollmann, M., Reissner, V. & Hebebrand, J. Towards a comprehensive assessment of school absenteeism: development and initial validation of the inventory of school attendance problems. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 28, 399–414 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-018-1204-2

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