Educational interventions typically center on youth displaying early academic risk, potentially overlooking those falling off track academically later in their educational careers. The current study investigated the extent to which life course transitions experienced during adolescence were linked to falling off-track academically in high school. Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (N = 4284; 53% female; Mage = 14.88) documented that 1516 students displayed no educational risk in early high school, yet 14% did not pursue 4-year college by age 24. Analyses revealed the unique life course transitions predictive of falling off-track academically (i.e., sexual intercourse, alcohol use, family transitions, residential mobility). The study’s findings highlight important intervention avenues to promote adolescents’ continued educational persistence.
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A.D.B. conceptualized the study, participated in its design and coordination, oversaw the analyses, and drafted the manuscript; S.C. conducted the statistical analyses, interpreted the data, and drafted the manuscript; R.S.M. conceptualized the study, participated in its design and coordination, and helped draft the manuscript; Y.S. conducted statistical analyses, interpreted the data, and helped draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The authors acknowledge grants from the William T. Grant Foundation and the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD; K01HD087479) to the first author and from NICHD to the Population Research Center at UT Austin (P2CHD042849). Opinions reflect those of the authors and not necessarily those of the granting agencies.
Data Sharing and Declaration
This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website (http://www.cpc.unc.edu/addhealth).
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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. For this type of study formal consent is not required.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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Benner, A.D., Chen, S., Mistry, R.S. et al. Life Course Transitions and Educational Trajectories: Examining Adolescents who Fall off Track Academically. J Youth Adolescence (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-020-01376-x
- Educational attainment
- Educational risk
- Risky behavior
- Family instability
- Life course transitions