Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Psychology

Sub-Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Mark Weist

Abstract

High school dropout (HSDO) is associated with poor life outcomes across many domains. As such, it is crucial to understand and identify the factors that contribute to HSDO risk early to increase the chance of positive student outcomes. Because students at-risk are heterogeneous, researchers recommend using pattern-centered approaches to identify subpopulations with similar risk profiles to better understand various typologies of risk. This may be a more comprehensive and accurate way to understand students atrisk for HSDO and may facilitate the development of more effective interventions. To date, seven empirical studies have used a pattern-centered approach to examine HSDO. However, risk is often studied narrowly (e.g., across one or two domains) and crosssectional analyses are typically used. Additionally, this research often focuses on intrapersonal characteristics, which may neglect contextual influences such as peer relationships. The current study advances the HSDO literature by (a) testing a model which examines the possibility of different subpopulations of students at-risk for HSDO, (b) defining subpopulations by peer risk characteristics, a critical and understudied ecological risk, (c) studying longitudinal trajectories of change (i.e., growth or decline in peer risk factors), and, (d) examining the relationship that contextual support (i.e., support of a students’ family, school, and community) has on the likelihood of belonging to certain peer risk trajectory patterns. Results are presented and future directions are discussed, as well as implications for schools and families.

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