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School-related Risk and Protective Factors Associated with Truancy among Urban Youth Placed at Risk

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Truancy is a serious concern in the United States. Its negative effects are so pervasive that in 2003 the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention named truancy prevention a national priority. Effective prevention of truancy requires a thorough understanding of the characteristics that describe truant youth as well as factors that may put them at risk for truancy. Unfortunately, surprisingly little is known about the correlates and/or causes of truancy. In this paper we explore associations between truancy and several salient school-related risk and protective factors among a sample of youth who grew up in socially disorganized neighborhoods of Denver, CO. We demonstrate that several school-related risk and protective factors are associated with truancy. Perhaps most importantly, we identify that the two most robust predictors are school performance and involvement with delinquent peers, and that these two variables form a synergistic relationship in which the relationship between delinquent peer association and truancy is mitigated among students who perform well in school. Editors’ Strategic Implications: The authors use data from a large probability sample drawn from neighborhoods with high crime rates to identify key correlates of truancy. They also draw attention to the dearth of efficacious truancy prevention efforts in spite of the magnitude of the problem.

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This research was supported by grant K01 DA017810-01A1 (P.I. Kimberly L. Henry) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and grant 96-MU-FX-0017 (P.I. David Huizinga) from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent official positions or policies of the National Institute of Drug Abuse or the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

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Correspondence to Kimberly L. Henry.

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Henry, K.L., Huizinga, D.H. School-related Risk and Protective Factors Associated with Truancy among Urban Youth Placed at Risk. J Primary Prevent 28, 505–519 (2007).

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