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School dropout rates 'may be linked to negative peer pressure'

21/03/2017 Joanna

Students who are not performing well in school may be more likely to drop out due to the increased influence of negative peer pressure, according to a new study from the US.

Conducted by the University of Texas at Arlington, the research analysed data from 125 students at a struggling high school in Chicago, surveying participants on whether they were failing in key subjects such as mathematics, English, science and social sciences, as well as the degree of parental involvement in their life and the number of failing and dropout friends they had during the last year.

Using a mathematical model to analyse the data, it was demonstrated that students who are failing at two or more subjects are likelier to drop out of school, an association that was heavily linked to their increased interactions with other failing students.

By contrast, an increase in the degree of parental involvement in a vulnerable student's life was linked to a drop in the number of their failing friends. However, this only occurred if negative social influence had not already passed a certain point, because in these cases an increased parental presence is likely to result in a rebellious reaction.

As such, the report suggested that schools ought to be doing more to make sure that vulnerable and failing students are not mixing exclusively with other students in the same situation, as this could help to drive a sustained reduction in dropout rates.

Christopher Kribs, a professor of mathematics and curriculum and instruction at the University of Texas at Arlington, said: "Positive parenting is clearly very important for students but the study discovered that there is a point where negative peer influences overcome positive parental influences.

"We feel there is a real opportunity to intervene at the school level to reduce dropout rates by controlling negative influences."

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