School Connectedness and the Transition into and out of Health Risk Behavior among Adolescents: A Comparison of Social Belonging and Teacher Support
Clea McNeely, University of Minnesota
Christina Falci, University of Minnesota
We investigate the association between school connectedness and the transition into and out of multiple health risk behaviors in a nationally representative sample of middle and high school students. This is the first longitudinal study we know of to specifically examine the effect of school connectedness on cessation of risk behaviors. We assess the joint influence of two dimensions of school connectedness, belonging and teacher support, on the probability of initiation of six health risk behaviors and the transition out of those behaviors. We find that teacher support protects against initiation of all six behaviors: sexual intercourse, cigarette smoking, marijuana use, getting drunk, weapon-related violence, and suicidal ideation and attempts. Teacher support is protective for reduction of just one behavior, violence. Social belonging is a risk factor for occasional smoking but otherwise is unrelated to the outcomes. These findings are explained by distinguishing between conventional and unconventional forms of connectedness.