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School factors associated with school refusal- and truancy-related reasons for school non-attendance

Abstract

The primary aim of this study was to investigate how students’ perceptions of relationships with peers at school and teachers’ classroom management are associated with school refusal-related reasons and truancy-related reasons for school non-attendance. The study included controls for emotional stability and relevant parental variables. A student self-report questionnaire was implemented, and students were recruited from 45 schools in seven municipalities in Norway. The survey was conducted at the end of the autumn term in 2012, with a total of 5,465 students from the 6th–10th grades participating. The sample of students was examined to obtain a subsample consisting of those students who reported that they had been absent from school at some time during the past 3 months (\(\hbox {N}=3{,}629\)). Multivariate associations were studied in this subsample through the use of structural equation modeling. The findings of this study suggest that poor relationships with peers at school could be an important risk factor for school refusal and could be a moderate risk factor for truancy. Moreover, according to these results, teachers’ classroom management could play a role in school refusal indirectly by preventing bullying and social exclusion by peers. Finally, a direct association of teachers’ classroom management with school refusal-related and truancy-related reasons was found among secondary school students, suggesting that perceived poor support from teachers could increase the risk of school refusal and truancy among these students. The present study underscores the importance of efforts to prevent bullying as a measure to reduce school refusal. Finally, the findings imply that the role of school factors must always be taken into account in connection with unexcused school non-attendance.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Professor Thormod Idsøe at the Norwegian Centre for Learning Environment and Behavioral Research in Education, University of Stavanger, for helpful advice concerning statistical analyses. We would also like to thank the participating schools and students, for making this research possible.

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Correspondence to Trude Havik.

Appendix

Appendix

Factor loadings and goodness-of-fit indices for all measurement models. Factor loadings were constrained to be invariant across school level (primary or secondary school). Moreover, internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha) for factor-based indexes is given.

School refusal-related reasons Factor loadings
SRMR\(\,=\,\).035, RMSEA\(\,=\,\).046, 90 % CI (.033–.059); CFI\(\,=\,\).98; TLI\(\,=\,\).97. (\(\alpha =.85\))
Absent from school because...you have been afraid or worried about something at school .71
Absent from school because...you would feel sad or sorry if you went to school .80
Absent from school because...you wanted to avoid unpleasant situations at school .90
Absent from school because...you have been afraid of making a fool of yourself at school .77
Truancy-related reasons  
SRMR\(\,=\,\).045, RMSEA\(\,=\,\).042, 90 % CI (.029–.055); CFI\(\,=\,\).98; TLI\(\,=\,\).97. (\(\alpha =.85\))
Absent from school because...you were going to do something you find boring .81
Absent from school because...you had planned to be with friends outside of school during school time .90
Absent from school because...you were going to do more appealing things outside of school .89
Absent from school because...you were tired after playing computer games during the night .67
Emotional stability  
SRMR\(\,=\,\).051, RMSEA\(\,=\,\).044, 90 % CI (.040–.047); CFI\(\,=\,\).95; TLI\(\,=\,\).95. (\(\alpha =.76\))
Are you easily hurt when people find things wrong with you or the work you do? .67
Do you worry for a long time if you have made a fool of yourself? .55
Do you often feel your life is sad? .58
Are your feelings easily hurt? .75
Are you vulnerable in some areas? .64
Parental interest in school work  
SRMR\(\,=\,\).046, RMSEA\(\,=\,\).038, 90 % CI (.035–.042); CFI\(\,=\,\).96; TLI\(\,=\,\).96. (\(\alpha =.82\))
My parents are interested in my schoolwork .79
My parents often help me with schoolwork .72
My parents often praise me for my schoolwork .71
My parents follow-up on how school is going .75
Parental monitoring of reasons for absence  
SRMR\(\,=\,\).054, RMSEA\(\,=\,\).039, 90 % CI (.035–.044); CFI\(\,=\,\).96; TLI\(\,=\,\).96. (\(\alpha =.77\))
If I am sick and cannot attend school, my parents will ask what is wrong with me .50
If I am sick and cannot attend school, I am not allowed to go to my friends’ houses .86
If I am sick and cannot attend school, I am not allowed to attend activities or training after school .87
Being bullied  
SRMR\(\,=\,\).051, RMSEA\(\,=\,\).041, 90 % CI (.038–.045); CFI\(\,=\,\).96; TLI\(\,=\,\).96. (\(\alpha =.87\))
How often have you been bullied/bothered at school by other students in the last school year? .87
How often have you been bullied/bothered at school by being teased by other students in the last school year? .85
How often have you been bullied/bothered at school by not being allowed to spend time with others or being isolated/excluded in the last school year? .73
How often have you been bullied/bothered at school by being beaten, kicked or pushed by other students in the last school year? .68
Socially isolated at school  
SRMR\(\,=\,\).044, RMSEA\(\,=\,\).041, 90 % CI (.037–.044); CFI\(\,=\,\).96; TLI\(\,=\,\).96. (\(\alpha =.88\))
I can feel left out in my class .76
Sometimes it is hard for me to find someone to cooperate with .75
I sometimes feel lonely at school .87
Sometimes is it hard for me to find someone to spend time with during recess .82
I have few friends at school .69
Teachers’ classroom management (second order)  
SRMR\(\,=\,\).044, RMSEA\(\,=\,\).033, 90 % CI (.032–.035); CFI\(\,=\,\).96; TLI\(\,=\,\).96. (\(\alpha =.92\))
Teachers’ emotional support .79
Teachers’ academic support .85
Teachers’ monitoring .72
Teachers’ follow-up of non-attendance .66
Students’ perceived predictability .73
Teachers’ emotional support  
SRMR\(\,=\,\).044, RMSEA\(\,=\,\).039, 90 % CI (.036–.043); CFI\(\,=\,\).97; TLI\(\,=\,\).97. (\(\alpha =.93\))
I can trust my teacher .77
I feel that my teachers have faith in me .82
My teachers will always help me if I have problems .82
I feel that my teachers care about me .91
I feel my teachers appreciate me .89
Teachers’ academic support  
SRMR\(\,=\,\).043, RMSEA\(\,=\,\).037, 90 % CI (.033–.040); CFI\(\,=\,\).97; TLI\(\,=\,\).97. (\(\alpha =.87\))
When we are doing group work or project work, the teachers are good at explaining what to do .78
Our teachers teach the whole class well .81
When we work by ourselves, the teachers are good at explaining what to do .81
It is easy to understand the teacher’s explanations .74
Teachers’ monitoring  
SRMR\(\,=\,\).045, RMSEA\(\,=\,\).039, 90 % CI (.035–.043); CFI\(\,=\,\).96; TLI\(\,=\,\).96. (\(\alpha =.80\))
The teachers make sure we do our homework well .64
The teachers ensure we are doing our best in our classes .82
The teachers ensure that we behave well in our classes .71
The teachers ensure that we behave well during recess .62
Teachers’ follow-up of non-attendance  
SRMR\(\,=\,\).047, RMSEA\(\,=\,\).040, 90 % CI (.036–.045); CFI\(\,=\,\).96; TLI\(\,=\,\).96. (\(\alpha =.62\))
The teachers make sure to write down those who are absent .68
The teachers make sure to check if we deliver a message when we have been absent from school .71
Students’ perceived predictability  
SRMR\(\,=\,\).048, RMSEA\(\,=\,\).040, 90 % CI (.036–.044); CFI\(\,=\,\).96; TLI\(\,=\,\).96. (\(\alpha =.77\))
I know what the school day will include .67
I know what to do in my lessons .78
When changing between activities, I know what is happening .79

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Havik, T., Bru, E. & Ertesvåg, S.K. School factors associated with school refusal- and truancy-related reasons for school non-attendance. Soc Psychol Educ 18, 221–240 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-015-9293-y

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Keywords

  • School refusal
  • Truancy
  • Bullying
  • Social isolation
  • Classroom management