Drug Use and Delinquency: Causes of Dropping out of High School?

Drug Use and Delinquency: Causes of Dropping out of High School?

Drug Use and Delinquency: Causes of Dropping out of High School?

Drug Use and Delinquency: Causes of Dropping out of High School?

Synopsis

Gasper examines whether drug use and delinquency contribute to early school leaving and whether the effects differ for poor and middle-class youth. Results suggest that drug use and delinquency add little to explanations of dropout. Rather, drug use, delinquency, and dropout are driven by a process of precocious development rooted in early school failure. Driven by a fundamental dissatisfaction with school, precocious teens are more likely to use drugs, take on a job outside of school, and leave school without a diploma in an effort to gain independence. Dropout prevention should start in middle or elementary school and attempt to interrupt the developmental cycle of failure and problem behavior that culminates in dropout.

Excerpt

Graduating from high school is an important developmental task that marks the transition out of adolescence and into adulthood. Over the past several years, several reports have suggested that only two thirds of youth graduate within four years of entering high school, and that the odds of graduating from high school for black and Hispanic youth barely break 50/50 (Barton 2005; Greene and Winters 2006; Swanson and Chaplin 2003). Dropout rates remain high (Stillwell 2010). The consequences of dropping out of high school have been well documented (Coley 1995; Rumberger 1987). In an economy that places a high value on education and where few jobs exist for those without a high school diploma, high school dropouts face unemployment, welfare dependency, and imprisonment. In addition to being costly to the individual high school dropout, a youth’s decision not to continue with his or her education is also expensive for the rest of society in terms of forgone tax revenues and increased expenditures on a variety of social programs, from remedial education to criminal justice. Given all of these negative consequences, it is particularly pressing to understand why youth drop out of school.

One factor that is strongly related to a youth’s decision to drop out of high school is participation in problem or deviant behavior, including delinquency and drug use. However, while few would dispute that delinquency and drug use are associated with dropout, there is a great deal of debate as to whether delinquency and drug use actually lead to dropout. While some studies suggest that delinquency and drug use influence a youth’s decision about whether to stay in . . .

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