The influence of social-relational factors on young people's engagement with school

Year: 2012

Author: Barker, Katrina, Hamilton, Linda, Vickers, Margaret

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Students from families of low SES are substantially less likely to complete high school than those from families of high SES. However, it is important to consider what exactly is it about low SES that renders young people to disengage and leave school early?  This question has been largely overlooked by researchers examining young people's disengagement and early school leaving.  

This paper proposes that one of the underlying mechanisms contributing to disengagement in low SES youth is a range of contextual factors including: parents, teachers and peers.  Although researchers have found that young people's relationships with their parents, friends and teachers have a substantial influence on their engagement with school and on their decisions to either drop out or stay on; few have examined the values embedded in these relationships as a factor contributing to disengagement.   To address this void, this paper focuses on relationships with significant others, and the values embedded in them, on engagement at school. 

A conceptual model is tested which hypothesises that young people's engagement with school is predicted by the education-related values perceived by young people to be espoused by parents and teachers, and that these relationships are mediated through both the young person's own values in relation to wanting to do well at school, and their perceptions of the values of those they choose to be their friends.

1, 966 secondary students in years 7-9 in the first year of the study responded to Martin's (2003) Student Motivation and Engagement Scale and a relatively new instrument designed to measure Social-Relational Support for Education (SRSE). Structural equation modeling was employed to evaluate the conceptual model.  SEM analyses indicated that the conceptual model explained the data well.  The presentation will centre on the theoretical and practical implications of the results.  Future analyses will include longitudinal SEM to provide a perspective on the developmental trajectories of student engagement over time.