Self-Beliefs and Background Variables as Predictors of School Withdrawal of Adolescent Students

Article excerpt

There has been a recent interest in adolescent students' school withdrawal and in the identification of factors that may be related to their failure to continue in the educational system. The purpose of this study was to examine the contributions of academic background, self-beliefs, and other factors toward the explanation of school withdrawal by adolescent students. There were several findings from this study. First, both academic background and self-beliefs were significant predictors of school withdrawal. Second. specific self-beliefs (such as financial goals and social goals) showed significant negative relationships with school withdrawal. Third, the relationships between self-beliefs and school withdrawal were different for minority and majority students. These results provide support for the efficacy of academic background and other variables as predictors of adolescent students' school withdrawal.

There has been a recent interest in adolescent students' school withdrawal and in the identification of factors that may be related to their failure to continue in the educational system. Thousands of students leave high school each year without having earned a diploma (Vallerand, Fortier, & Guay, 1997) and many of those students may experience subsequent personal difficulty (Tidwell, 1988). For a national sample of students who continued their education after high school and enrolled in post-secondary education, recent findings indicated that only about 26% completed a bachelor's degree five years later (Berkner, Cuccaro-Alamin, & McCormick, 1996). Further, there is concern about low college graduation rates for minority students (Carter & Wilson, 1997). Consequently, there is a need for research that assesses the effects of specific student characteristics on their subsequent withdrawal from school. In addition, research is needed that evaluates those predictive relationships simultaneously for minority an d majority students.

Two factors that appear to be related to grade performance and withdrawal from high school or college are students' academic self-concept and their achievement expectancies. In many studies, continued enrollment in school is referred to as persistence (Milem & Berger, 1997). Students who persisted in high school despite having low grades tended to show higher levels of self-esteem than did students who left school (Finn & Rock, 1997). Similarly, students who dropped out of high school tended to show a lack of self-determined motivation when compared to students who persisted in school (Vallerand, Fortier, & Guay, 1997). Further, numerous studies have found a significant predictive relationship between adolescent students' academic selfconcept and their subsequent grade performance (House, 1993a, 1997: Marsh & Yeung, 1997; Mboya, 1986; Vrugt, 1994). The results of these studies suggest that higher levels of academic selfconcept were associated with higher levels of academic achievement. Considering adolescent students in post-secondary education, academic self-concept and achievement expectancies have been shown to be significant predictors of performance in specific courses (House, 1995b, 1995c, 1996) and of school withdrawal (House, 1992, 1993b). Further, self-concept and achievement expectancies have predicted the school persistence of minority students (Brown & Robinson Kurpius, 1997; Fuertes, Sedlacek, & Liu, 1994; Lin, LaCounte, & Eder, 1988; Pavel & Padilla, 1993; Trippi, & Stewart, 1989). Because of these findings, it has been suggested that the effects of factors such as academic self-concept and achievement expectancies on subsequent achievement outcomes be more fully explored, particularly for minority students (Falk & Aitken, 1984; Tracey & Sedlacek, 1987).

A number of other factors have been reported to be associated with students' academic performance. These findings have been reported for students at all levels of education (elementary, secondary, and post-secondary). …