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Relationship Between School Engagement and Delinquency in Late Childhood and Early Adolescence

NCJ Number
Journal of Youth and Adolescence Volume: 40 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2011 Pages: 3-22
Paul J. Hirschfield; Joseph Gasper
Date Published
January 2011
20 pages
This study examined the link between school engagement and adolescent misbehavior in late childhood and early adolescence.
Engagement in school is crucial for academic success and school completion. Surprisingly little research has focused on the relationship between student engagement and delinquency. This study examines whether engagement predicts subsequent school and general misconduct among 4,890 inner-city Chicago elementary school students (mean age: 11 years and 4 months; 43.3 percent boys; 66.5 percent Black; 28.8 percent Latino). To improve upon prior research in this area, we distinguish three types of engagement (emotional, behavioral, and cognitive), examine whether the relationship between engagement and misconduct is bidirectional (misconduct also impairs engagement), and control for possible common causes of low engagement and misconduct, including peer and family relationships and relatively stable indicators of risk-proneness. Emotional and behavioral engagement predict decreases in school and general delinquency. However, cognitive engagement is associated with increases in these outcomes. School and general delinquency predict decreased engagement only in the cognitive domain. Suggestions for future research and implications for policy are discussed. (Published Abstract) Figures, tables, appendix, and references