Evidence for a relationship between child maltreatment and absenteeism

Authors: Johan Melander Hagborg, Kristina Berglund, Claudia Fahlke

Abstract

School absenteeism is a potent predictor of academic failure. Maltreated adolescents have been found to be more absent from school compared to their peers. However, it is scarcely studied in what degree a general population of students with high levels of school absenteeism has been
exposed to child maltreatment. Furthermore, it is not known if maltreated school-absentees have specific characteristics compared to not-maltreated absentees. In this article, the first objective was to present and compare the prevalence of six types of child maltreatment in a general population of high school students reporting no, moderate or excessive absenteeism. The second
objective was to compare maltreated and not-maltreated students who report absenteeism in respect to mental health, perceived school environment and peer victimization in school. Data from 667 girls and 649 boys (mean age 14.3) was used from the longitudinal multidisciplinary research program LoRDIA (Longitudinal Research on Development In Adolescence). Data was
collected via self-report questionnaires in classroom settings. All six types of child maltreatment were overrepresented among absentees. Roughly 25% of absentees reported one subtype of maltreatment (16% in the total population) and a mean of 22% of absentees reported two or more types of maltreatment (11% in the total population). Maltreated absentees reported more mental health problems, personal harassment and worse relationship with their teachers than not-maltreated absentees. There might be specific correlates of school absenteeism among maltreated adolescents and professionals involved in preventing school-absenteeism should be made
aware of the relationship between maltreatment and absenteeism.

This research is financed by:

Swedish Research Council, FORTE, VINNOVA, Formas.

Contact persons: Johan Hagborg, Kristina Berglund, Claudia Fahlke

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