Study of school 'connectedness' identifies adolescents at risk

CINCINNATI -- A physician at Children's Hospital Medical Center of Cincinnati has for the first time identified common characteristics in young people who feel "disconnected" from their school environments, a situation that places them at great risk of unsafe behavior and poor health.

Fortunately, several of these factors are potentially modifiable and may help school health providers target youth in need of assistance, according to lead author Andrea Bonny, M.D., a physician in Cincinnati Children's division of Adolescent Medicine. The study is published in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics.

"The extent to which students feel 'connected' to their school environment is an important factor protecting them from unsafe behaviors, such as violence and substance abuse, and poor emotional and physical health," says Dr. Bonny.

"We found that decreasing school connectedness is associated with four potentially changeable factors: declining health status, cigarette use, increasing school nurse visits, and lack of extracurricular involvement. Identifying these factors is the first step toward developing school-based prevention strategies that are targeted correctly to those at the highest behavioral and health risk."

Dr. Bonny surveyed nearly 2,000 students in eight public schools attending grades 7 through 12. The schools were chosen for their high rates of adverse outcomes, such as school failure, teen pregnancy, and child abuse. The survey included more than 100 questions, and a school connectedness score (SCS) was derived from five survey items.

These items are:

  • I feel close to people at this school
  • I feel like I am part of this school
  • I am happy to be at this school
  • The teachers at this school treat students fairly
  • I feel safe in my school

In addition to the four potentially modifiable factors, black race, female gender, and urban schools were also associated wit

Contact: James Feuer
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

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