Teen girls may skip school more often than boys
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Some adolescents skip school for no reason, while others are absent because they are afraid to go to school, a study of Swiss schoolchildren indicates.
And while school fear becomes less prevalent as adolescents get older, truancy becomes much more common, Dr. Hans-Christoph Steinhausen of the University of Zurich and colleagues found.
To better understand the differences between these two types of absenteeism, the researchers surveyed 834 adolescents at around age 13 and again at age 16.
School fear more common in girls
At age 13, nearly 7 percent of students reported "school fear" -- defined as difficulty attending school associated with emotional distress, especially anxiety and depression. Three years later at age 16, 3.6 percent of students still had a fear of school. School fear was much more common in girls than boys.
Unlike school fear, rates of truancy rose significantly as students got older. When they were 13, only about 5 percent admitted to skipping school. When questioned again at age 16, 18.5 percent reported that they played truant.
Students who were fearful of school had more "internalizing" problems, or psychological problems like depression and anxiety in which negative feelings are directed inward. The truant students, on the other hand, had more "externalizing" problems, such as aggression, and were also more likely to be delinquent.
Less self esteem, but more self aware
The survey also showed that adolescents who feared school had less self-esteem than control students who didn't report absenteeism as well as their truant peers, while truants and those with school fears were actually more self-aware than control kids.
SOURCE: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 2008. 2008-08-05 (Reuters Health)