Category Archives: Research

Guess what makes the biggest impact on early childhood outcomes? Intentional teaching

Having early childhood education just isn’t enough. It is what happens in early childhood education that can make a difference. This new review looks at several measures of the quality of early childhood education and based on their research, Margaret Burchinal suggests that the instructional practices of preschool teachers have the largest effect on young children’s academic and social skills. I don’t think this review paper will end the discussion, probably nothing ever will, but it does add to it.

From the press release:

A comprehensive review of research on several measures of the quality of early childhood education suggests that the instructional practices of preschool teachers have the largest impact on young children’s academic and social skills. The review helps untangle a complicated knot of factors that affect young children.

“High quality preschool is one of the most effective means of preparing all children to succeed in school,” said Margaret Burchinal, senior research scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG)at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “However, this review of research indicates the need to expand our definitions of quality.”

Burchinal said her review of the science suggests the field should continue to measure the quality of relationships of preschool teachers and children, especially the sensitivity and warmth of the teachers. In addition, the review suggests factors such as the levels of education of program directors and teachers and the teacher-child ratio also influence outcomes.

However, the areas with the strongest connection to beneficial results for young children involve what teachers teach and how they teach it.

“The largest effects on child outcomes involve curricula,” Burchinal explained. “Some of the biggest impacts on literacy, math, and other skills involved curricula focused on those specific skills with accompanying coaching or training for teachers.”

According to Burchinal, many of the most effective curricula incorporate planned, engaging activities for preschoolers, with a schedule of lessons and activities in a variety of learning settings. Effective learning opportunities often include some whole group instruction and more time in small groups, learning centers, and computer work.

Burchinal also said the research shows that the teaching practice of “scaffolding” brings big benefits. “Scaffolding occurs when the adult caregiver talks with and models a learning activity for the child, making the activity fun through conversation that builds on and extends the child’s interest and knowledge about the world.”

Some of the largest impacts on children’s outcomes have arisen from the strongest pre-kindergarten programs, Burchinal added. These programs show even larger impacts for dual-language learners and for children from low-income families.

“These prekindergarten impacts are larger than impacts from traditionally-measured dimensions of quality,” Burchinal said. “This is further evidence that more focus on scaffolding and intentional teaching is needed.”

Burchinal pointed to FPG’s Abecedarian Project as an example of a program that combined intentional teaching with warmth and sensitivity. The project used an intensive, language-driven approach that involved teacher scaffolding of activity-based learning to build children’s knowledge base and language skills. The center-based, birth-to-5 program for children from low-income homes famously contributed to better cognitive, socio-emotional, and physical health outcomes that have persisted for decades.

Burchinal’s new review of research includes several studies based in the United States and other countries. “Measuring Early Care and Education” appears in “Child Development Perspectives,” which the Society for Research in Child Development publishes.

“As we think about the components of high-quality early childhood education, our policies and practices can reflect what this research tells us,” she said. “Ideally, our new models of quality will encompass evidence-based curricula and intentional teaching within content areas, as well as professional development that focuses on the teaching practices that promote the skills young children need to succeed in school.”

Abstract of the review:

High-quality early care and education (ECE) programs are thought to increase opportunities for all children to succeed in school, but recent findings call into question whether these programs affect children as anticipated. In this article, I examine research relating the quality of ECE to children’s outcomes, finding somewhat inconsistent and modest associations with widely used measures of process and structural quality, and more consistent and stronger associations with other dimensions of ECE such as curricula and type of ECE program. I discuss why the associations between ECE quality and outcomes are so modest, including limited children’s outcomes, psychometric issues with quality measures, and a need to revise and expand measures of ECE quality. The evidence indicates that we need to focus on the content of instruction and teaching practices, as well as the extent to which teachers actively scaffold learning opportunities. We also need to continue to focus on the quality of interactions between teachers and children, and on children’s access to age-appropriate activities.

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New study shows: ‘Fake news’ = incorrect, but hard to correct.

#Fakenews is nothing new, despite some president claiming he invented it. But also because of that certain president there is a present surge of attention for the topic of ‘fake news’. This study by De Keersmaecker and Roets published in Intelligence adds some interesting insights on how people with lower cognitive abilities react to fake news in contrast to people with higher cognitive abilities:

  • When people learn their attitudes are based on false information, they adjust them.
  • People low (vs high) in cognitive ability adjust attitudes to lesser extent.
  • Adjusted attitudes remained biased for people low in cognitive ability.

This excerpt from the conclusion sums it up quite clearly:

In line with our expectations, results indicated that individuals with lower (versus higher) levels of cognitive ability were less responsive to this corrective new information, and the initial exposure to the incorrect information had a persevering influence on their attitudes. Specifically, when individuals with lower levels of cognitive ability learnt that their attitudes towards a target person were partly based on negative information that was incorrect, they did adjust their evaluation about the target person, but to a lesser degree than individuals with higher levels of cognitive ability. Importantly, the adjusted attitudes of individuals with lower levels of cognitive ability were still more negative compared to the evaluations of their counterparts who were never exposed to the incorrect negative information. Contrary, individuals with higher levels of cognitive ability made more appropriate attitude adjustments. In particular, after learning that the negative information was false, they adopted attitudes that were similar to those who had not received false information.

Noteworthy, these effects of cognitive ability on attitude adjustment were obtained regardless of whether or not we controlled for open mindedness (i.e., need for closure) and authoritarianism as potential confounding variables. This indicates that the obtained effects are genuine cognitive ability effects and that making appropriate adjustments of initial social impressions is indeed directly affected by cognitive ability.

Abstract of the study:

The present experiment (N = 390) examined how people adjust their judgment after they learn that crucial information on which their initial evaluation was based is incorrect. In line with our expectations, the results showed that people generally do adjust their attitudes, but the degree to which they correct their assessment depends on their cognitive ability. In particular, individuals with lower levels of cognitive ability adjusted their attitudes to a lesser extent than individuals with higher levels of cognitive ability. Moreover, for those with lower levels of cognitive ability, even after the explicit disconfirmation of the false information, adjusted attitudes remained biased and significantly different from the attitudes of the control group who was never exposed to the incorrect information. In contrast, the adjusted attitudes of those with higher levels of cognitive ability were similar to those of the control group. Controlling for need for closure and right-wing authoritarianism did not influence the relationship between cognitive ability and attitude adjustment. The present results indicate that, even in optimal circumstances, the initial influence of incorrect information cannot simply be undone by pointing out that this information was incorrect, especially in people with relatively lower cognitive ability.

 

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How to raise IQ? Education! (a new meta-analysis)

This morning Stuart Ritchie shared a preprint of a new meta-analysis he made together with Elliot Tucker-Drob and the theme is very relevant in many of the present discussions about education: the link between IQ and education. An important insight from the conclusion:

…the results support the hypothesis that education has a causal effect on intelligence test scores. The effect of one additional year of education—contingent on study design, inclusion of moderators, and publication bias correction—was estimated from approximately one to five points on the standard IQ scale.

And this is also important:

The results reported here indicate strong, consistent evidence for effects of education on intelligence. Although the effects—on the order of a few IQ points for a year of education— might be considered small, at the societal level they are potentially of great consequence. A crucial next step will be to uncover the mechanisms of these educational effects on intelligence, in order to inform educational policy and practice.

Still important questions remain. Ritchie and Tucker-Drob mention several, but I personally find this question very relevant for further research:

…are there individual differences in the magnitude of the educational effect? One possibility is the “Matthew Effect” (Stanovich, 1986), whereby children at greater initial cognitive (or socioeconomic) advantage benefit more from additional education than those at lower advantage. Another possibility is that education acts as an “equalizer”, such that those at lower levels of initial advantage benefit most (Downey, von Hippel, & Broh, 2004). Indeed, some evidence of an equalizing effect was reported in a single study by Hansen, Heckman, & Mullen (2004).

Read the abstract:

Intelligence test scores and educational duration are positively correlated. This correlation can be interpreted in two ways: students with greater propensity for intelligence go on to complete more education, or a longer education increases intelligence. We meta-analysed three categories of quasi-experimental studies of educational effects on intelligence: those estimating education-intelligence associations after controlling for earlier intelligence, those using compulsory schooling policy changes as instrumental variables, and those using regression-discontinuity designs on school-entry age cutoffs. Across 142 effect sizes from 42 datasets involving over 600,000 participants, we found consistent evidence for beneficial effects of education on cognitive abilities, of approximately 1 to 5 IQ points for an additional year of education. Moderator analyses indicated that the effects persisted across the lifespan, and were present on all broad categories of cognitive ability studied. Education appears to be the most consistent, robust, and durable method yet to be identified for raising intelligence.

 

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Bilingual children and inhibitory control, a match?

This is one of those ongoing debates in research: are there benefits of bilingualism? If I’m not mistaking, there is actually a conference right now about this theme in the Netherlands. This study is an interesting new longitudinal study and the answer of the researchers is ‘yes’, as their data shows that for children in preschool, speaking two languages may be better than one, especially for developing inhibitory control.

From the press release:

For students in preschool, speaking two languages may be better than one, especially for developing inhibitory control — the ability to stop a hasty reflexive response and instead select a more adaptive response.

That idea isn’t new, but a University of Oregon study took a longitudinal approach to examine the bilingual advantage hypothesis, which suggests that the demands associated with managing two languages confer cognitive advantages that extend beyond the language domain.

The study appeared in the journal Developmental Science.

Researchers looked at a national sample of 1,146 Head Start children who were assessed for their inhibitory control at age 4, and then followed over an 18-month period. The children were divided into three groups based on their language proficiency: Those who spoke only English; those who spoke both Spanish and English; and those who spoke only Spanish at the start of the study but were fluent in both English and Spanish at the follow up assessment.

“At the beginning of the study, the group that entered as already bilingual scored higher on a test of inhibitory control compared to the other two groups,” said the study’s lead author Jimena Santillán, a UO doctoral student in psychology at the time of the study.

Follow-up assessments came at six and 18 months. Inhibitory control was assessed using a common pencil-tapping task, in which the participant is instructed to tap a pencil on a desk twice when the experimenter taps once, and vice-versa, requiring the student to inhibit the impulse to imitate what the experimenter does and but do the opposite instead.

Over the follow-up period, both the bilingual group and the monolingual-to-bilingual transition group showed more rapid inhibitory control development than the group of English-only speakers.

“Inhibitory control and executive function are important skills for academic success and positive health outcomes and well-being later in life,” said study co-author, Atika Khurana, a professor in the Department of Counseling Psychology and Human Services and scientist at the UO’s Prevention Science Institute.

“The development of inhibitory control occurs rapidly during the preschool years,” she said. “Children with strong inhibitory control are better able to pay attention, follow instructions and take turns. This study shows one way in which environmental influences can impact the development of inhibitory control during younger years.”

Students in this study came from low socioeconomic status families, as is typical of Head start samples. Such children are in a group known to be at-risk for poorer outcomes related to executive function skills. This population allowed the researchers to compare students from similar socioeconomic backgrounds but who had different language experiences.

Researchers also were able to control for other variables that could be associated with inhibitory control development, such as a child’s age and parenting practices. The study’s design allowed researchers to focus on the effects of bilingual experience on inhibitory-control development during preschool years.

Previous studies have examined the effects of bilingualism on inhibitory control, but have done so with a focus on one point in time or development and have focused on smaller samples from mostly middle class backgrounds, said Santillán, who now is a senior research manager at Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child.

“Many studies have addressed the bilingual advantage hypothesis,” she said. “However, the findings have been inconsistent. Part of the reason is the difficulty of randomly assigning participants to be bilingual or monolingual, which would be the ideal research design.”

The longitudinal approach allowed researchers to see how inhibitory control changed over time for children who were developing bilingualism during the same time period, as well as for those who were already bilingual with those who remained monolingual.

“This allowed us to get closer to capturing the dynamic nature of the development of bilingualism and inhibitory control, both of which change over time, and rule out other potential explanations for the differences observed between groups,” she said.

It was important, she said, to focus on a sample of children who tend to be at risk for not developing inhibitory abilities at the same rate as their peers from higher socioeconomic backgrounds because of the motivation to find factors that could help buffer such children from these negative outcomes.

“We were able to obtain evidence that bilingualism can be a protective factor that helps children develop these cognitive abilities,” Santillán said. “Provided that more research studies support our results, the findings we’ve obtained could have implications for policies related to bilingual education and could help encourage families to raise their children as bilingual.”

Abstract of the study:

Children from lower socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds tend to be at-risk for executive function (EF) impairments by the time they are in preschool, placing them at an early disadvantage for academic success. The present study examined the potentially protective role of bilingual experience on the development of inhibitory control (IC) in 1146 Head Start preschoolers who were followed for an 18-month period during the transition to kindergarten as part of the longitudinal Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) 2009 study. Using three waves of data, we predicted individual variation in developmental trajectories of IC for three groups that differed in bilingual experience—English monolinguals, Spanish-English bilinguals, and a group of children who transitioned from being Spanish monolingual to Spanish-English bilinguals during the course of the study. Compared to their English monolingual peers, bilingual children from Spanish-speaking homes showed higher IC performance at Head Start entry, as well as steeper IC growth over time. Children who were Spanish monolingual at the beginning of Head Start showed the lowest IC performance at baseline. However, their rate of IC growth exceeded that of children who remained English monolingual and did not differ from that of their peers who entered Head Start being bilingual. These results suggest that acquiring bilingualism and continued bilingual experience are associated with more rapid IC development during the transition from preschool to kindergarten in children from lower SES backgrounds.

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An interesting pilot-study on the pedagogical knowledge of teachers

I’m often reluctant to share a pilot-study, but I share this working paper as it something very interesting to follow up. The OECD wants to monitor the pedagogical knowledge of teachers in the near future and therefor performed a pilot-study in 5 countries. The results are therefor probably not really representative.

Let’s have a closer look:

What is the nature of teachers’ pedagogical knowledge? The Innovative Teaching for Effective Learning Teacher Knowledge Survey (ITEL TKS) set out to answer this question in a pilot study that ran in five countries: Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Israel and the Slovak Republic. Using convenience samples, the pilot assessed the pedagogical knowledge base of teachers, teacher candidates and teacher educators. Pedagogical knowledge was broken down into the domains of assessment, instructional processes and learning processes. The link between teachers’ knowledge and characteristics of teacher education systems, opportunities to learn and motivational characteristics was also examined.

The ITEL TKS pilot demonstrated the feasibility of researching teachers’ pedagogical knowledge profiles across countries, and validated an innovative instrument for assessing general pedagogical knowledge in an internationally comparative way. It also allowed for reflection on potential adaptations to strengthen the design of future work. The results serve as a template for a larger-scale study to explore teacher knowledge and competences in nationally representative samples.

I’m a bit confused by what pedagogical knowledge seems to mean in this study, but I’ve discussed before why this is. Dirk Van Damme shared this tweet with the most important result of this – again pilot – study:

I suggested two things based on this tweet:

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Project-Based Learning: “promising but not proven” (Best Evidence in Brief)

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief (they have a blog now too) and this working paper will be of interest to a lot of people:

A working paper from MDRC builds on and updates a literature review of project-based learning (PBL) published in 2000. Focused primarily on articles and studies that have emerged in the last 17 years, the working paper discusses the principles of PBL, how PBL has been used in K-12 settings, the challenges teachers face in implementing it, how school and local factors influence its implementation, and what is known about its effectiveness in improving learning outcomes.
The report suggests that the evidence for PBL’s effectiveness in improving student outcomes is “promising, but not proven.”  The biggest challenge to evaluating the effectiveness of PBL, the researchers suggest, is a lack of consensus about the design of PBL and how it fits in with other teaching methods. Some studies have found positive effects associated with the use of PBL. However, without a clear vision of what a PBL approach should look like, it is difficult for teachers and schools to assess the quality of their own implementation and know how to improve their approach. They  also suggest that PBL implementation is particularly challenging because it changes student-teacher interactions and requires a shift from teacher-directed to student-directed inquiry, and requires non-traditional methods of assessment.
The paper concludes with recommendations for advancing the PBL research literature in ways that will improve PBL knowledge and practice.

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A new form of self-harm: cyberbullying yourself

I hadn’t heard this one before, according to this new paper a new form of self-harm in youth has emerged and is cause for concern. The behavior: ‘digital self-harm’ or ‘self-trolling,’ where adolescents post, send or share mean things about themselves anonymously online. The concern: it is happening at alarming rates and could be a cry for help. This new FAU study is the first to examine the extent of this behavior and is the most comprehensive investigation of this understudied problem and I was quite surprised to see that in a big sample 6% actually did this kind of self-harm.

From the press release:

Adolescents harming themselves with cuts, scratches or burns has gained a lot of attention over the years not just because of the physical damage and internal turmoil, but also because it has been linked to suicide. More recently, a new form of self-harm in youth has emerged and is cause for concern, warns a researcher and bullying expert from Florida Atlantic University.

The behavior: “digital self-harm,” “self-trolling,” or “self-cyberbullying,” where adolescents post, send or share mean things about themselves anonymously online. The concern: it is happening at alarming rates and could be a cry for help.

A new FAU study is the first to examine the extent of this behavior and is the most comprehensive investigation of this understudied problem.

“The idea that someone would cyberbully themselves first gained public attention with the tragic suicide of 14-year-old Hannah Smith in 2013 after she anonymously sent herself hurtful messages on a social media platform just weeks before she took her own life,” said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., study author, a professor in FAU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the College for Design and Social Inquiry, and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. “We knew we had to study this empirically, and I was stunned to discover that about 1 in 20 middle- and high-school-age students have bullied themselves online. This finding was totally unexpected, even though I’ve been studying cyberbullying for almost 15 years.”

Hinduja and his collaborator from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., recently published results of their study in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

They used a nationally representative sample of 5,593 middle and high school students between the ages of 12 and 17 years old living in the United States to find out how many youth participated in digital self-harm, as well as their motivations for such behavior. They also examined if certain correlates of offline self-harm also applied to digital forms of self-harm.

Results of the study show that nearly 6 percent of the teens reported that they had anonymously posted something mean about themselves online. Among these, about half (51.3 percent) said they did it just once, about one-third (35.5 percent) said they did it a few times, while 13.2 percent said they had done it many times.

Boys were more likely to participate in this behavior (7 percent) compared to girls (5 percent). Their reasons, however, varied dramatically. Boys described their behavior as a joke or a way to get attention while girls said they did it because they were depressed or psychologically hurt. This finding is especially worrisome for the researchers as there may be more of a possibility that this behavior among girls leads to attempted or completed suicide.

To ascertain motivations behind the behavior, the researchers included an open-ended question asking respondents to tell them why they had engaged in digital self-harm. Most comments centered around certain themes: self-hate; attention seeking; depressive symptoms; feeling suicidal; to be funny; and to see if anyone would react. Qualitative data from the study showed that many who had participated in digital self-harm were looking for a response.

Age and race of the respondents did not differentiate participation in digital self-harm, but other factors did. Teens who identified as non-heterosexual were three times more likely to bully themselves online. In addition, victims of cyberbullying were nearly 12 times as likely to have cyberbullied themselves compared to those who were not victims. Those who reported using drugs or participating in deviance, had depressive symptoms, or had previously engaged in self-harm behaviors offline were all significantly more likely to have engaged in digital self-harm.

“Prior research has shown that self-harm and depression are linked to increased risk for suicide and so, like physical self-harm and depression, we need to closely look at the possibility that digital self-harm behaviors might precede suicide attempts,” said Hinduja. “We need to refrain from demonizing those who bully, and come to terms with the troubling fact that in certain cases the aggressor and target may be one and the same. What is more, their self-cyberbullying behavior may indicate a deep need for social and clinical support.”

Abstract of the study:

Purpose

Despite increased media and scholarly attention to digital forms of aggression directed toward adolescents by their peers (e.g., cyberbullying), very little research has explored digital aggression directed toward oneself. “Digital self-harm” is the anonymous online posting, sending, or otherwise sharing of hurtful content about oneself. The current study examined the extent of digital self-harm among adolescents.

Methods

Survey data were obtained in 2016 from a nationally representative sample of 5,593 American middle and high school students (12–17 years old). Logistic regression analysis was used to identify correlates of participation in digital self-harm. Qualitative responses were also reviewed to better understand motivations for digital self-harm.

Results

About 6% of students have anonymously posted something online about themselves that was mean. Males were significantly more likely to report participation (7.1% compared to 5.3%). Several statistically significant correlates of involvement in digital self-harm were identified, including sexual orientation, experience with school bullying and cyberbullying, drug use, participation in various forms of adolescent deviance, and depressive symptoms.

Conclusions

Digital self-harm is a new problem that demands additional scholarly attention. A deeper inquiry as to the motivations behind this behavior, and how it correlates to offline self-harm and suicidal ideation, can help direct mental health professionals toward informed prevention approaches.

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The present generation students is… slightly less narcissistic

Remember this magazine cover?

Looks pretty similar to this cover from 1976:

Or this one from 1985?

Or do you remember this picture?

Yeah, I debunked this story already here but these pictures suit the image of the egocentric, smartphone obsesses youth, and for sure this selfie-taking generation will be more narcissistic for sure? Well… no.

We already knew from 2012 research by Twenge et al that the narcissistic turn actually could have happened in the eighties, but now there is a new study by Wetzel et al stating that the present group of students… is probably less narcissistic than generations before them and there never has been a epidemic of narcissism at all, as this conclusion sums it up:

In contrast to popular opinion, our findings did not show that today’s college students are more narcissistic than college students in the 1990s or the 2000s, at least in the three universities examined in the present study. In fact, we found small decreases both in overall narcissism and in its leadership, vanity, and entitlement facets. Importantly, these decreases already started between the 1990s and the 2000s and continued more strongly in the late 2000s and 2010s. Our study suggests that today’s college students are less narcissistic than their predecessors and that there may never have been an epidemic of narcissism.

Abstract of the study:

Are recent cohorts of college students more narcissistic than their predecessors? To address debates about the so-called “narcissism epidemic,” we used data from three cohorts of students (1990s: N = 1,166; 2000s: N = 33,647; 2010s: N = 25,412) to test whether narcissism levels (overall and specific facets) have increased across generations. We also tested whether our measure, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), showed measurement equivalence across the three cohorts, a critical analysis that had been overlooked in prior research. We found that several NPI items were not equivalent across cohorts. Models accounting for nonequivalence of these items indicated a small decline in overall narcissism levels from the 1990s to the 2010s (d = −0.27). At the facet level, leadership (d = −0.20), vanity (d = −0.16), and entitlement (d = −0.28) all showed decreases. Our results contradict the claim that recent cohorts of college students are more narcissistic than earlier generations of college students.

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Sometimes you’d better don’t believe the press release

I read a lot of different studies and press releases about studies and some end up on this blog. Yesterday I read one press release and when I than read the actual study, I ended up not writing a blog post but tweeting this:

Sadly enough other people did go with the hurray-feel of the press release, as you can take from the title of this NPR-post.

I received these 2 great replies:

But if you want to check for yourself, here you can find the press release and here you can find the actual study.

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How to predict dropouts? New study looks at different elements

Young people dropping out of college, leaving education without a degree is a story of shattered dreams and possibilities. How can we predict who needs that bit of extra help to succeed? A new UK study using US data shows that teenagers who do not access healthcare when needed are at greater risk of dropping out of high school.

The study in short:

  • We explore the relationship between personality traits and school dropout.
  • We employ multiple treatment propensity score matching.
  • We use forgone health care as a proxy for psychological maturity of judgement.
  • Forgone health care is a consistently significant predictor of dropout.
  • Specific combinations of traits are associated with an increase in school dropout.

From the press release:

Teenagers who do not access healthcare when needed are at greater risk of dropping out of high school say researchers from Lancaster University in the UK.

More than one in five young people in the developed world drop out of high school, which leads to a higher risk of unemployment, ill health and crime.

The study in the Journal of Economic Psychology examined data from the US National Longitudinal Study of Adolescents to Adult Health, a nationally representative sample of 90,000 students in grades 7 to 12 at 132 schools.

The authors, Dr Eugenio Zucchelli and Dr. Giuseppe Migali, from Lancaster University said : “Forgone healthcare is a consistently significant predictor” and could be used to identify teenagers at risk of leaving before the age of 18.

Over a third of dropouts do not seek healthcare when needed compared with only over a quarter of other high school students.

Not using healthcare includes not choosing to access healthcare for reasons including “did not know who to see” and “I thought the problem will go away”; this was used as a marker of the ability to assess the long-term consequences of actions.

The researchers excluded teenagers who could not pay or did not have transport to visit the doctor and the ones with chronic conditions.

A risky attitude towards health is also common among more than half of dropouts, who are more likely to smoke, drink and take drugs.

High school graduates and dropouts differ on the Big Five personality traits used by psychologists.

Dropouts are more likely to have combinations of the following traits:

  • low conscientiousness
  • neuroticism
  • introversion

Researchers say “Individuals who forgo their healthcare and present low conscientiousness and introversion have the highest risk of dropout.”

Do note: correlation, not necessarily causal relation, still very relevant information.

Abstract of the study:

There is sparse evidence on the effects of personality traits on high school dropout, especially on whether combinations of different traits may uniquely influence dropout decisions. We employ single and multiple treatment matching together with rich data on US adolescents to explore the relationship between personality traits and their combinations on school attrition. Using the Big Five inventory, we find that introversion, and to a lesser extent neuroticism, are individually associated with higher probabilities of dropping out from school. Multiple treatment estimates show that blends of low levels of conscientiousness and neuroticism present higher likelihoods of an early exit. Furthermore, we exploit information on forgone health care and explore its role as a predictor of dropout, potentially proxying relevant traits associated with psychological maturity of judgement such as responsibility, perspective and temperance. These traits refer to the capacity of assessing the long-term consequences of actions and may influence an individual’s decision-making process, including dropout choices. Forgone health care appears to be a statistically significant predictor of dropout throughout our models. Individuals who forgo their health care and present low conscientiousness and introversion have the highest risk of dropout. Overall, our results are robust to alternative specifications and increasing levels of selection on unobservables. We suggest that given its predictive power, forgone health care could be used as a signalling device to help identifying individuals at higher risk of school dropout.

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