Hidden School Disengagement and Its Relationship to Youth Risk Behaviors: A Cross- Sectional Study in China

By Tam, Frank Wai-ming; Zhou, Huazhen et al. | International Journal of Education, April 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Hidden School Disengagement and Its Relationship to Youth Risk Behaviors: A Cross- Sectional Study in China


Tam, Frank Wai-ming, Zhou, Huazhen, Harel-Fisch, Yossi, International Journal of Education


Abstract

School dropout has become a serious problem in many places around the world. However, before students actually dropout from school, they normally exhibit some symptoms of disengagement from the social life and emotional involvement of school. Thus, hidden school disengagement or avoiding school psychologically may be an early stage of school dropout. This article examines the phenomenon of hidden school disengagement among students aged 12-16 in China. 14,563 students in 11 provinces and 2 administrative regions participated in a Youth Health Behaviors Survey conducted in 2010. Based on the Index of Hidden Disengagement, 2,854 students (19.6%) were identified as having multiple symptoms of disengagement. Further analysis suggested that students who were identified as hidden disengaged students had a significantly higher ratio of being involved in health-related risk behaviors, suffered from psychosomatic symptoms, and had a pessimistic outlook of their health and their lives. Personal and contextual factors, such as students with one or more siblings in the family, non-intact families, low family economic background, migrant families, left-over children, schools located in rural areas, and non-model schools, all contributed to a higher prevalence of hidden school disengagement.

Keywords: school disengagement; risk behaviors; health behaviors

1.Introduction

School dropout has become a widespread problem in many education systems around the world. However, well before students actually dropout from school, they normally exhibit some symptoms of disengagement from the social life and emotional involvement of school. Some of them, such as frequent tardiness to school (Taras, 2005) and truancy (Henry, 2007), are overt symptoms, but some of them, such as authority avoidance (Loeber et al., 1993), alienation from school (Osco, 2004)and school avoidance (Regner & Loose, 2006), are covert symptoms. Overt signs of disengagement are relatively easy to spot and dealt with from a policy perspective, but hidden or covert symptoms of school disengagement, which is likely to be more prevalent, is perhaps much more difficult to identify and to handle.

In the education literature, many scholars have used different names to describe the phenomenon of hidden school disengagement. Some of them are school disengagement (Vaughn et al., 2010), psychological disengagement (Strambler & Weinstein, 2010), emotional disengagement (Fredricks, Blumenfeld & Paris, 2004) andhidden dropout(Rosenblum, Goldblatt & Moin, 2008). It is an issue that deserves much attention by researchers and educational professionals. It has been suggested that the consequences of hidden school disengagement are far reaching, resulting in many negative consequences for society (Fantuzzo, Grim & Haxan, 2005). For example, Sum et al. (2003) found that the high school dropout rate in the US may be almost three times higher than government estimates, and that those who are not reported may be in the hidden school disengagement category. Also, hidden school disengagement is predictive of maladjustment (Balfanz, Herzog & MacIver, 2007; Reid, 1984), poor academic performance and school dropout (George & Alexander, 2003; Kandel, Ravels & Kandel, 1984; Wehlage et al., 1986), substance abuse (Hallfors et al., 2002; Miller & Plant, 1999), antisocial behaviors (Juvonen, 2006; Kaplan, Peck & Kaplan, 1994) and teenage pregnancy (Hibbert & Fogelman, 1990; Manlove, 1998). There is also evidence to suggest that the effect of hidden school disengagement persists past adolescence, predicting violence, job instability and adult criminality (Catalano et al., 1998; Dryfoos, 1990).

Despite the growing number of research endeavors pertaining to the issue of hidden school disengagement, we do not have much knowledge about its nature, prevalence, correlates and predictors in the Asian population. The present study is an initial attempt to investigate the phenomenon of hidden school disengagement in China. …

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