Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Maria T. Riva, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jim Moran

Third Advisor

Barbara Vollmer

Fourth Advisor

Ruth Chao


Absenteeism, Latino, School refusal


School refusal behavior (SRB) is a subset of absenteeism in which children either altogether refuse to attend school or experience great difficulty remaining in class for the duration of the school day. Child motivated SRB is a growing problem that now affects between 5% and 28% of children and adolescents at some point during their lives. The effects of SRB can extend well beyond the classroom. Long-term, SRB can lead to delinquency and psychiatric, occupational, and marital problems in adulthood. Additionally, children who consistently exhibit SRB are more likely to drop out of school, thereby limiting their career choices and their earning potential.

Though there has been considerable research conducted with school refusing youth, studies examining the impact of environmental and contextual factors on SRB with Caucasian samples have been few and with Latino/a children have been nonexistent. Additionally, the research has shown that a significant number of school refusing youth do not meet criteria for a DSM-IV-TR diagnosis. Therefore, it is imperative that researchers begin to look to external variables to garner an understanding of the factors that create and maintain SRB. The purpose of this study

was to gain a better understanding of the meaning and attributions children make of their school refusing behaviors.

This study utilized a phenomenological design in which ten Latino/a children between the ages of 11 and 13 were interviewed on two separate occasions about their school refusal experiences. The students were asked open-ended questions about their relationships with peers, teachers, and family, as well as different facets of the school environment. All relevant statements from the interviews were categorized into themes in order to discover the essence of the experience.

The interviews revealed each student faced multiple barriers to school attendance. In other words, their school refusal behaviors were impacted by many different factors. The co-researchers' experiences were synthesized, and it was found that the most commonly endorsed factors concerned relationships, and their impact on SRB. Specifically, each child endorsed the quality of peer and teacher relationships as both being factors that heavily influenced his/her unwillingness to attend school. Other major themes that impacted the SRB of most participants were the way families viewed school attendance, children's support systems, relationships with parents, their experience of their schoolwork, and parental involvement. These and other findings highlight the systemic implications that need to address these concerns in order to better serve school refusing youth.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Mary Ashley Angelo


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

221 p.