Award Date

5-1-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Committee Member

Christopher A. Kearney

Second Committee Member

Jason Holland

Third Committee Member

Erin Hannon

Fourth Committee Member

Lori Olafson

Number of Pages

174

Abstract

The current study examined the relationship between family environment and severity of youth absenteeism in clinical and community settings. Previous researchers have adopted a categorical approach to investigating the role of family environment in problematic absenteeism by diving youth into discrete categories and these studies are almost exclusively conducted in clinical settings. The current study contributes to the literature by adopting a dimensional approach that examines the impact of family environment on problematic absenteeism across diagnostic and functional categories.

The first aim of the study was to determine the family environment characteristics most predictive of absenteeism severity. The first hypothesis was that the family environment characteristics cohesion, independence, intellectual-cultural orientation, and active recreational orientation would predict severity of absenteeism. The second aim of the study was to determine the influence of function of school refusal behavior on the relationship between family environment characteristics and severity of absenteeism. It was hypothesized that youth who refuse school in order to avoid stimuli that provoke negative affectivity and youth who refuse school to seek tangible reinforcement outside of school would moderate this relationship. The third aim of the study was to determine the influence of psychopathology on the relationship between family environment characteristics and severity of absenteeism. It was hypothesized that higher levels of internalizing and externalizing youth psychopathology would moderate this relationship.

The overall sample was recruited from two truancy settings and one clinical setting, and was composed of 174 elementary, middle, and high school youth aged 5-17 years and their parents or guardians in the Clark County School District. Youth missed an average of 38.93% of school days. Overall, families scored significantly lower than the norm on the Independence, Active-Recreational Orientation, and Intellectual Orientation subscales and significantly higher than the norm on the Moral-Religious Emphasis subscale of the Family Environment Scale (Moos & Moos, 1986). Hypothesis one was supported; however, a more predictive model wherein cohesion, conflict, intellectual-cultural orientation, and organization predicted severity of absenteeism was found. This model was also supported in the clinical and community subsamples. Hypothesis two was not supported; function of school refusal behavior did not moderate the relationship between family environment and absenteeism. Hypothesis three was partially supported; internalizing youth psychopathology did not moderate the relationship between severity of absenteeism and family environment, but externalizing youth psychopathology did moderate the relationship. The various ways in which family environment subscales contributed to absenteeism across subsamples was discussed. The model of family environment characteristics as it relates to severity of absenteeism was also discussed in terms of Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory. These results provide important clinic implications regarding the assessment and treatment of youth with problematic absenteeism in both clinical and community settings.

Keywords

Families—Attitudes; Home--Psychological aspects; School attendance--Psychological aspects; School children—Psychology; School phobia

Disciplines

Psychology

Language

English


Included in

Psychology Commons

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