Family factors in early school leaving

Family factors in early school leaving

Elly Robinson and Veronica Meredith

CFCA Paper No. 16 — July 2013
Family factors in early school leaving

Key messages

While school retention rates for Australia are at their highest levels ever, there are still significant numbers of young people who leave school early.

Early school leavers are at greater risk of long-term unemployment, which in turn places them at a much higher risk for social exclusion, welfare dependence and mental health problems.

Family-related risk factors for early school leaving include socio-economic status, residential mobility, parental education, parental separation, family structure and parenting practices.

Other factors can add to the cumulative risk of early school leaving for young people with existing family risk factors, including gender, aspirations and attitudes to education, special needs, education and employment policies and school-level policies and environment.

Parental separation in secondary school years, and the changing family structure as a result, may impact on the predictability of vital family functions that promote positive adolescent development, which in turn can influence academic achievement.

While the nature of parental involvement in education changes in the secondary school years, it remains a significant protective factor for academic achievement.

Parents who are negotiating post-separation parenting arrangements can be encouraged to remain involved in their adolescents' education, with "dinnertime discussions" seen as more effective in the adolescent years than helping with homework or voluntary roles at the school.

Young people who leave school early are at greater risk of experiencing long-term unemployment and slipping into social exclusion as a result. This paper looks at the risk factors associated with young people exiting the education system prematurely, particularly in a family context. The impact of parental separation and changes to family structure on academic outcomes, and the continued importance of parental involvement in education in the secondary school years are further explored. Key messages for child and family support practitioners who are working with families with adolescent children are provided.

Authors and Acknowledgements

Elly Robinson is Manager of the Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) information exchange at the Australian Institute of Family Studies and Veronica Meredith is a Research Officer with CFCA.

The authors would like to acknowledge the valuable input of Professor Bryan Rodgers and Rhys Price-Robertson.

Publication details

CFCA Paper
No. 16
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, July 2013.
13 pp.

Publication meta

Need some help?

CFCA offers a free research and information helpdesk for child, family and community welfare practitioners, service providers, researchers and policy makers through the CFCA News.