Date of Award

8-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Derek R. Hopko

Committee Members

Deborah Welsh, Daniela Corbetta, Robert Kronick

Abstract

Truancy and academic underachievement are significant problems among adolescents. Considering the historical emphasis on studying delinquency in populated urban areas, a more concerted effort is needed to examine this issue in rural areas to determine the extent to which findings are culturally generalizable. As a move in this direction, truant behavior was examined in an East Tennessee county in the southern region of the Appalachian Mountains. The primary objective of this exploratory investigation was to assess personality, behavioral, religious, and environmental factors most associated with high school absenteeism and academic achievement in the Appalachian south. Participants were 374 adolescents in grades 9 through 12 who attended four different high schools in a rural county in East Tennessee. Results of the current study lend some support to the notion that problem behaviors tend to cluster within individuals and be inversely related to academic performance. Having set rules and boundaries within the home was found to be important in preventing truant behavior among this high school sample. Participation in prosocial activities was not supported as a protective factor against problem behaviors to the extent that has been found in other samples. Regression analyses indicate that alcohol use and increased sexual activity were especially strongly associated with truant behavior and academic underperformance, as well as the possibility of a cumulative negative effect of absenteeism on G.P.A. over time.

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