The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Understanding the School Experience and High School Graduation Rates of Middle School Profiles of School Victimization and Problem Behaviors

Sunday, January 19, 2014: 11:45 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 002B River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Kevin Tan, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Ryan Heath, AM, Doctoral Student, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Aditi Das, Doctoral Student, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Yoonsun Choi, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Purpose: This study seeks to identify profiles of middle school victimization and problem behaviors, and understand their association with school experience and high school graduation. Extant studies identifying profiles of middle school-aged problem behaviors have primarily focused on individual indicators such as peer victimization (Nylund et al., 2007) or marijuana use (Reboussin et al., 2007). However there is a dearth of studies examining school-based victimization alongside multiple school-specific problem behaviors such as suspension, fighting, tardiness and absenteeism. Our study examines categorizations of various school-based problem behaviors along with victimization, and explores how their middle school experiences, such as the fairness around school discipline and the extent of teacher-student engagement is associated with high school graduation by age 18 years. 

Methods: Based on a panel of middle school students (n=1,771) from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 (NLSY97), latent class analysis was applied at baseline (1997) to identify profiles of middle school-based victimization and problem behaviors from five indicators: victimization, suspension, fighting, tardiness and absenteeism from school. After the identification of profiles, posterior probability-based multiple imputations were used to compare demographic, school experience and regular high school graduation rates across the profiles of middle school victimization and problem behaviors.  

Results: Latent class analysis suggests the existence of four profiles of middle-school victimization and problem behaviors: the first profile captured youths who reported high levels of victimization and other problem behaviors (6.8%); the second profile categorized youths who experience high victimization and fighting (26.8%); the third profile distinguished students who reported high victimization as well as tardiness and absenteeism (8.2%); and the last profile accounted for youths who reported low levels of victimization and problem behaviors (58.1%). Further analyses suggest that youths in the profile of low victimization and low problem behaviors reported the highest levels of household income, as well as the most positive school experience and successful high school completion. The converse, however, holds true for youths in the profile of high victimization and high problem behaviors. Significant demographic characteristics that distinguish the profile of high victimization and fighting include race (white) and mothers with higher education, while the profile of high victimization with tardiness and absenteeism is characterized by lower household income and mothers who are less likely to have a high school diploma.

Implications: Our findings suggest the need to consider how the combination of victimization and multiple school-specific problem behaviors among middle school-aged youths may impact their chance to successfully graduate from regular high school. To improve overall high school graduation rates, our results also highlight the need to enhance the school experience of middle school students who may match the profiles of victimization and problem behaviors that are associated with poor probabilities of regular high school completion.