The Long Term Impact of Social Support On School Engagement: A Comparison of Mexican, Puerto Rican and Cuban Adolescents
Methods: This study used data from in-home interviews conducted at Waves I and II of the National Longitudinal Study of Add Health, a nationally representative survey of 7th through 12thgrade youth. Our sample included 474 Cubans, 1,727 Mexicans, and 546 Puerto Ricans. Cognitive, emotional and behavioral school engagement and social support measures were obtained from adolescent reports. Multivariate OLS regression was used to examine the association between teacher, peer and parent support at Wave I on school engagement one year later, controlling for gender, age, socioeconomic status, and school engagement at Wave I. We explored Latino subgroup differences in the study’s core variables and considered the generalizability of results across Latino subgroups in each final model.
Results: As predicted, teacher, peer and parent support at Wave I were positively associated with emotional school engagement at Wave II, controlling for the effect of Wave I engagement. However, not all indices of social support were associated with cognitive and behavioral engagement. Only teacher support at Wave I was significantly associated with cognitive engagement at Wave II, and only teacher and family support were significantly associated with behavioral engagement one year later. Cognitive engagement was significantly higher for Cuban youth relative to Mexican and Puerto Rican youth.
Conclusions and Implications: This study highlights the importance of social support for school engagement among Latino adolescents. Findings provide evidence for conceptualizing school engagement as a multi-dimensional construct consisting of cognitive, emotional and behavioral domains and indicate that the association between social support and school engagement varies by type of engagement. These findings underscore the need to consider differences among Latino subgroups and have important implications for social work practitioners and researchers seeking to identify supports that will improve school engagement among Cuban, Mexican and Puerto Rican youth.