A new study finds that certain life experiences — from being fired from a job to being arrested — can worsen the negative effects of dropping out of school.
But there are interventions and treatments that can improve the odds for dropouts, according to researchers from Duke University.
Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study followed 585 children from age five to age 27. It looked at the factors that increased the children’s risk of dropping out, how high school dropouts fared later in life, and what factors prevented negative outcomes.
The children, from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, lived in Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee, and Bloomington, Indiana.
According to the study’s findings, by age 24, 14 percent of the study’s participants had dropped out and had not received a GED, comparable to national statistics.
The researchers found that, compared to high school graduates, the dropouts were three times more likely to have been arrested by age 18 and four times as likely to need government assistance by age 27.
They also were twice as likely to be fired from a job two or more times, to have used drugs in the past six months, and to report poor health by age 27.
Additionally, the study found that most dropouts face multiple hardships as adults. Researchers discovered that the dropouts were 24 times more likely than high school graduates to experience four or more negative outcomes by age 27.
However, the researchers also discovered that the risk of these hardships — such as getting arrested, needing government assistance, being fired or having poor health — declined if they received treatment for behavioral, emotional, or drug problems by age 24.
“It suggests that treatment can serve as a turning point,” said lead researcher Dr. Jennifer E. Lansford, a Duke University research professor of public policy and a faculty fellow of the university’s Center for Child and Family Policy.
“It could make it more likely for you to hold a job or not be in jail. It’s evidence that these kinds of treatments can work.”
Researchers also found dropouts suffered more problems in later life if they were rejected by classmates in elementary school or became parents themselves at a young age.
Improving peer relationships in elementary schools and reducing teen pregnancies are worthy investments and may even help reduce the drop-out rate, the researchers suggest.
Source: Duke University