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Am J Public Health. 1997 December; 87(12): 1997–2001.
PMCID: PMC1381243

The relationship between students' sense of their school as a community and their involvement in problem behaviors.


OBJECTIVES: There has been relatively little research on the contributions of school context to developmental outcomes. This study examined relationships between students' sense of the school as a community and their involvement in problem behaviors. METHODS: Participants were an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample of 1434 fifth and sixth grade students from 24 elementary schools around the United States. Data were analyzed by hierarchical linear regression. RESULTS: The major finding was that, with several relevant student- and school-level characteristics controlled, schools with higher average sense-of-community scores had significantly lower average student drug use and delinquency. Caution is warranted in inferring causality, however, owing to the cross-sectional design. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that school context may moderate relationships between individual risk and protective factors and developmental outcomes, and that schools that are experienced as communities may enhance students' resiliency.

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  • Hawkins JD, Catalano RF, Miller JY. Risk and protective factors for alcohol and other drug problems in adolescence and early adulthood: implications for substance abuse prevention. Psychol Bull. 1992 Jul;112(1):64–105. [PubMed]

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