Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Committee Member

Christopher Kearney, Chair

Second Committee Member

Michelle Carro

Third Committee Member

Jennifer Rennels

Graduate Faculty Representative

Lori Olafson

Number of Pages



The current study examined the relationship between the functions of school refusal behavior and family environment characteristics in a community sample of youth. The primary aim was to determine the family environments most strongly associated with each function of school refusal behavior in an ethnically diverse, community-based sample of youths referred to the legal process for absenteeism. Hypotheses for the current study were based on the premise that family environment characteristics of the community sample of youths with problematic absenteeism would generally resemble those identified in previous clinical samples. The first hypothesis was that youth who refuse school primarily to avoid stimuli that provoke negative affectivity would exhibit a healthy family dynamic. The second hypothesis was that youth who refuse school primarily to escape social or evaluative situations would exhibit an isolated family dynamic. The third hypothesis was that youth who refuse school primarily to pursue attention from significant others would exhibit an enmeshed family dynamic. The fourth hypothesis was that youth who refuse school primarily to pursue tangible reinforcement outside of school would exhibit a conflictive and detached family dynamic.

The sample was recruited from two truancy settings and was composed of 215 middle and high school youth aged 11-17 years and their parent or guardian. Overall families scored significantly lower than the norm on the Cohesion, Independence, Active-Recreational Orientation, and Intellectual-Cultural Orientation Family Environment Scale subscales. Families also scored lower than the norm on the Expressiveness subscale and higher than the norm on the Conflict subscale, but these findings were not robust. Families of function one and function four youth were associated with low levels of cohesion and high levels of conflict. There were no significant associations between function two and function three youth and specific family characteristics. Varying results were also found for English-speaking and Spanish-speaking families. These results provide important clinical implications regarding assessment and treatment of school refusing youth in community settings.


Education; Families; Family assessment; Family environment; Psychology; School absenteeism; School attendance; School refusal


Child Psychology | Educational Psychology | Family, Life Course, and Society | School Psychology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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