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