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J Adolesc Res. 1998 Jan;13(1):49-72.

Adolescent school experiences and dropout, adolescent pregnancy, and young adult deviant behavior.



Outside of the family, schools are the most proximal socializing agent available to convey societal norms and prohibitions to young people. In some cases, a positive school experience can compensate for the antisocial influence of family and community. The present study investigated the predictive ability of school-related factors on later deviancy in a random sample of 452 US adolescents 12-18 years of age attending 150 junior or senior high schools in upstate New York and enrolled in a broader prospective study. A measure of conduct problems, obtained 2 years before measurement of school factors, was used to control for the predisposing effects of problematic behavior on later deviance. Academic achievement, academic aspirations, and a learning-focused school environment had deterrent effects on all deviant outcomes assessed--dropping out of school, adolescent pregnancy, engaging in criminal activities, criminal conviction, antisocial personality disorder, and alcohol abuse--independent of age, gender, intelligence quotient, socioeconomic status, childhood conduct problems, and proportion of deviance-oriented friends in adolescence. Given the persistence of deviant behavioral patterns of adolescence into adulthood, the systems-level influences identified in this study should be given careful attention.

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