Family Characteristics. The family structure can play a significant role in a student’s behavior and attitude towards both school and life. The level of stress experienced by a family can have a significant impact on students in their academic and social lives. Stress impacts a family’s interactions and processes in a way that has a negative effect on its members. Both stressful life events and the impact of parenting stress can create this result. Further, students lacking a stimulating home environment lack parental sensitivity. Students of low SES face the most intense challenges in this context, as they are most likely to face more than one, or all, of these factors (Oxford & Lee, 2011).

Family processes such as structure, coping, and relations differ from family to family and vary based on the structure of each member’s daily life, shared experiences, and the manner in which they deal with problems (Kiser & Black, 2005). Positive family engagement can have a significant positive effect on student achievement (Smink & Reimer, 2005). The relationship between economic status and health is one that should also be noted. Generally, people outside of the low SES category tend to be healthier overall (Tipper, 2010).

Some students who are in foster care face a significantly higher likelihood of participating in high risk behaviors. Particularly, students in this category who have low levels of caretaker support in their foster care setting are much less likely to experience positive outcomes. Researchers in this study controlled for several factors, including; self-competence, placement changes, poor self-regulation, and caregiver support. Interestingly, girls who had high levels of caretaker support had consistently positive outcomes both academically and behaviorally. This illustrates that the students who were removed from negative circumstances and placed in positive ones benefitted from the change. Without facing so many of the risk factors they had experienced in their previous setting, the female foster students were able to thrive (Pears, et al., 2011).

The manner in which children interact with their parents, specifically the manner in which parents respond to a youth’s emotional behavior, has a significant impact on their development of depression. Parents who react positively to a student’s sadness and attempt to support them are more likely to reduce the risk the child will become depressed. In contrast, parents who react negatively towards a student’s sadness or anger increase the likelihood for depression. Parents who react positively towards a child’s positivity reduce likelihood for depression. Parents who react with anger and dysphoria increase the likelihood for depression. Parents who wish to reduce the likelihood of depression as an outcome for their child face challenges in systematically changing their behaviors over time, so they may increase the chances of a positive outcome for their children (Schwartz, et al. 2012). The significance of family characteristics and interaction was further highlighted by Kim-Spoon, et al. (2011) who found that positive parenting is a significant indicator of a child’s ability to self-regulate.

In a study that examined the behavior of parents with their toddlers, Whittaker (2010) found that maternal sensitivity is an indicator of socio-emotional functioning among toddlers. Participants were mother-child groups with the children aged 3 to 23 months. Of the 130 mothers aged 15 to 51 selected to participate, 114 participated in the first visit of the study, and 95 participated in the follow-up visit scheduled six months later. Participants were mostly minority women who had never been married. Measures of risk for a negative outcome in this study included parenting stress, parental depression, maternal sensitivity, and inadequacy of family resources. These factors were contributors to a mother’s level of sensitivity to her child. Students benefit from high expectation in their families. High expectations from family members are related to a student’s high hopes for themselves. Students who have high hopes for themselves are five times as likely to have mothers that have high expectations of them. Female students who benefit from high expectations along with stricter rules regarding school from their mothers perceive that their teachers are satisfied with their performance. Female students setting high expectations for themselves are more likely to graduate than their counterparts (Ensminger & Slusarcick, 1992).




Profile of Dropout Prevention Students. Dropout prevention students are characterized by their backgrounds and circumstances, the conditions they experience, and the risk indicators they demonstrate that increase the likelihood they will drop out of school. These factors include; course failure, grade retention, low test scores, school location, spending per pupil, student body composition, race, socioeconomic status, student mobility, resiliency, motivation, family characteristics, early adult responsibilities (Tyler & Lofstrom, 2009), aggressive behavior, and maternal education level (Ensminger, M. & Slusarcick, A., 1992) . Students who become victims of these variables become handicapped as adults without high school diplomas. The act of dropping out of school may be just another event in a chain of events that are driven by these variables. Some research views the decision to drop out of school as a long-term process that encapsulates these issues and culminates with the act of dropping out (Finn, 1989).

In a study of students surveyed on their participation of high risk behaviors about fifteen percent of students self-identify as very high-risk, 15 percent as high-risk, 35 percent as medium- risk, 20 percent as low-risk, and 15 percent as no-risk. Some of their characteristics of the very high-risk category include having been arrested at least once, having access to guns, using alcohol, using illegal drugs, being sexually active, being depressed, and attempting suicide. Students in the high-risk category share characteristics such as alcohol use, marijuana use, behind in school, truant, and depressed. Students in the medium risk category, the largest risk category, are involved in at least two among these risk behaviors: being behind in school, truancy, alcohol use, marijuana use, and sexual activity. Low-risk and no-risk youth are less likely to drop out because of their behaviors which could include cutting a class or taking a drink of alcohol. Although these students are categorized as low-risk and no-risk, they are surrounded by the students who are taking part in negative behaviors and face the possibility of being victimized by them (Dryfoos, 1996).

Low Socioeconomic Status. This element of a DOP student’s experience, a primary factor in the current study and one of the strongest indicators of DOP status will be analyzed first. While neighborhood characteristics influence educational attainment among young people, institutional factors also play a role. School quality is often higher in wealthier neighborhoods. The higher the quality of the neighborhood, as measured by wealth or socioeconomic status, the less likely young people are to drop out of high school and the more likely they are to attain a college degree (Santiago, et al., 2011). According to Vartarian & Gleason (2002), students in these neighborhoods benefit from more positive adult role models, peers with whom goals and experiences can be shared, and high quality local institutions. Likewise, as neighborhood conditions improve, they have a primary impact on high school dropout rates Living in socially- isolated neighborhoods has a negative impact on educational attainment, due to the lack of influence by positive adult role models. Specifically, young people are likely to model what those around them are doing. Socially-isolated neighborhoods suffer from the lack of positive adult role models to impede the process of educational attainment. The most negative effects of living in socially-isolated neighborhoods are the most severe among young people who do not have the family support, or positive adult presence, to support them as they attempt to overcome the challenges of such a setting (Vartanian & Gleason, 2002). Urban area students are impacted by the challenges of their communities where there are high concentrations of poverty. Concentrations of depression are linked to these communities. Reasons for this link vary, and can range from higher level of stressors in the community, experiencing traumatic events to having low-levels of social support and cohesion. Regardless of covariates, SES of the community remained a statistically significant indicator. Rural areas also suffer from many of these challenges (Galea, et al., 2007).

There is a statistically significant relationship between a student’s decision to drop out of school and contact with the legal system. Students who are arrested in ninth or tenth grade are six times as likely to make the decision to drop out of school as their counterparts (Hirschfield, 2009). Students who come from a background of low socioeconomic status (SES) feel the after effects of a community that does not have a good relationship with school systems or job markets (Ensminger & Slusarcick, 1992). They are more likely than other students to drop out of school (Bloom, 2010). The challenges that low SES students face may stem from events that occurred early in their lives. Black, et al. (2000) examined the Bayley Scales of Infant Development scores of infants from low-incomes families to find that these infants developed at a lower rate than children from the normative sample. The study found that these students are less likely to explore objects in their environment, engage in tasks or with others, and have lower levels of enthusiasm, initiation, persistence, and emotional/dispositional quality.

Students who progress through their early lives in a state of low SES are impacted by the risks of their circumstances and negatively affected in the area of mental health. These circumstances include neighborhood disadvantage and poverty-related stressors. They can result in delinquency, attention problems, aggression, somatic complaints, and anxiety/depression (Santiago, et al., 2011). They deal with daily challenges from their families, neighborhood, and school — all of whom are impacted and interconnected by the same challenges. As a result, the SES students experience emotional, cognitive, behavioral, spiritual, and physiological reactions that occur during and after traumatic events. The level of risk for students of low SES to develop mental health disorders and impairment are higher than the risk levels for the general population (Kiser, L., 2006).

Further, students in these circumstances are more likely to experience traumatic events that cause stress-related issues. In a meta-analysis of 25 potential risk factors for PTSD (post- traumatic stress disorder) Trickey, et al. (2011) found that both the traumatic and post- events factors experienced by the child play a major role in whether a child develops PTSD after the event. The criteria for the study considered children from 6 to18 years of age from 64 studies between 1980 and 2009. Variables examined included age, race, gender, IQ, SES, pre and post- trauma life events, bereavement, and severity. The results illustrated that children who experience low social support, social withdrawal, poor family functioning, and distractions have a higher likelihood for PTSD. It should be noted that a strong factor in the successful treatment of PTSD is early screening and prompt treatment.

Improving the quality of education provided to students living in poverty would help to counter some of the adverse circumstances they experience on a daily basis. However, it appears that the opposite occurs in the United States. Students from high poverty districts are more likely to go to schools that have inadequate resources and poorly trained teachers. As a result these students leave school without the skills needed to earn a living that would pull them out of the circumstances in which they grew up, thereby feeding the pattern of inequality of education, inequality of educational attainment, and inequality of labor marker earnings (Murnane, 2007).