Family Background, Child Maltreatment, and the High School Dropout
Presenter: Xiangming Fang, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Rationale: The economic consequences of leaving high school without a diploma are severe. Prior research has shown family characteristics, such as family poverty and parental education, are important determinants of high school dropout. Moreover, previous research has also shown family background factors affect a family’s risk of child maltreatment. However, little is known about whether child maltreatment has a direct and significant influence on the risk of high school dropout, and whether child maltreatment mediates the effects of family background factors on high school dropout.
Objective: The objective of this study is to use a nationally representative longitudinal sample of adolescents to examine the effects of family background factors and three forms of child maltreatment (neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse) on the risk of high school dropout, allowing for the potential endogeneity of experiencing child maltreatment.
Methodology: Data describing family background characteristics from Wave I of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) study (1994 – 1995) were matched with retrospective reports of child maltreatment during Wave III (2001 – 2002) of the Add Health study and the exit statuses from high school appearing on Wave III respondents’ transcripts. The study sample included 6,422 participants who were in grades 7 through 10 during Wave I survey and reinterviewed in Wave III survey, and whose official high school transcripts were collected by the Adolescent Health and Academic Achievement (AHAA) study, an extension study of the Add Health study. A behavior decision model, which related high school dropout to child maltreatment and family background characteristics, was developed to guide our empirical analyses. A maximum simulated likelihood approach for a multivariate probit model was used to estimate a recursive system of equations for high school dropout, child maltreatment and family background.
Results: Controlling for other variables, family size, family structure (two biological parents or not), parental education, and family poverty are all significantly associated with high school dropout. Hyperactivity/impulsive symptoms and low IQ also significantly predict high school dropout. The associations between family background characteristics and child maltreatment vary by type of child maltreatment experienced. Living with both biological parents is significantly associated with the lower risk of maltreatment for all three types of child maltreatment. Family poverty is only significantly associated with childhood neglect, while family size is only significantly associated with childhood physical abuse. Allowing for endogeneity, childhood neglect and physical abuse contributes significantly to the risk of high school dropout, while childhood sexual abuse is not significantly associated with the risk of high school dropout.
Conclusions: The findings shed light on how parents’ attitudes and behaviors toward children influence their long-term human capital accumulation outcomes. Preventing childhood neglect and physical abuse in economically disadvantaged and/or non-two biological parent families may help significantly reduce the high school dropout rate.
Authors: Xiangming Fang, Nori Tauri
Session: Health Economics and Violence Prevention
Time: Wed 2:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.