Non-academic factors associated with dropping out of high school: Adolescent problem behaviors
This study uses a social capital and collective socialization lens to examine nonacademic factors in middle school that predict students’ failure to complete high school, and focuses on youth who engage in adolescent problem behaviors of smoking cigarettes, sexual intercourse, delinquency, marijuana use, and alcohol use. Our area of interest was the extent to which these variables were predictive of dropping out of high school measured 6 years later and beyond the traditional variables of school performance and school engagement, which are the target of many dropout prevention programs. Analyses use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to follow a nationally representative sample of children from middle school through the end of the high-school years. Results indicate that engaging in regular smoking and sexual activity during middle-school years predict high-school dropout independent of school performance during middle school. Acts of delinquency during middle school in the context of poverty (i.e., mothers’ receipt of welfare was proxy for poverty) are also predictive of high-school dropout. These findings suggest the importance of factors that reach beyond school performance and school engagement as possible targets for dropout prevention programs.