Best Evidence in Brief: family instability increases drop-out rates

Maybe you’ll think: no shit, Sherlock? But still, the result of this British study by Hampden-Thompson and Galindo that I found via Best Evidence in Brief may also be quite depressing if you are in a divorce or have been divorced with kids.

From Best Evidence in Brief:

A new study has shown that young people who experienced instability in family structure were 33% less likely to stay in education than those who lived in stable married biological families.

The research, published in the British Educational Research Journal, used data from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE), which has tracked the progress of 10,783 young people and their parents. This was combined with information from the National Pupil Database (NPD), which contains longitudinal student achievement data.

Students who had experienced a change in family structure between 2004 and 2007 were significantly less likely to stay in school after the age of 16 than those who did not. In other findings, the study found no discernible difference between children living in cohabiting biological families and those living in married biological families. However, children living in a cohabiting family that included one biological parent were less likely to stay in school than those from two-biological-parent married families.

After accounting for covariates such as family socioeconomic status, the analysis revealed that children from stable lone-parent households were as likely to remain in education after the age of 16 as were children in stable married biological families.

In terms of informing policy, the study shows the importance of identifying the multiple risk factors that children may face. Much research has focused on the importance of poverty, but other factors independent of income can also have an influence.

Abstract of the study:

Research in the area of family structure and educational outcomes has often failed to account for instability in family structure. Furthermore, prior research in this area has been dominated by North American studies with a smaller body emerging from Europe. This study draws upon 10,783 young people and their parents from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England to examine the association between family structure and family structure instability on post-16 educational persistence. Multivariate models indicate that family structure instability has a negative impact on educational persistence. After controlling for covariates, young people who had experienced family structure instability were 33% less likely to stay in education than young people who resided in married biological families during the four years prior to the end of compulsory schooling. The findings of this research provide evidence that young people who have experienced a change in family circumstances during these four years are potentially at risk of dropping out of school – this is the case irrespective of the nature of the change. Once covariates were accounted for, young people who resided in stable lone-parent households were just as likely as those in stable married biological families to continue to post-16 education. Analyses were also conducted to determine the educational persistence of young people from biological vs step-cohabitating families.

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