School Absenteeism Among Middle School Students With High Exposure to Violence

Published:March 24, 2022DOI:



      Chronic school absenteeism is linked to failure to graduate high school and poor health in adulthood. Contextual factors associated with absenteeism may be under-recognized in school and clinical settings. We examined the prevalence of self-reported absenteeism and violence exposure and their association among middle school students with identified risk of trauma.


      We analyzed baseline data from a dating violence prevention program. Participants completed surveys identifying lifetime exposure to 10 types of violence and past 30-day absence. Violence exposure and absenteeism were summarized and compared across demographic groups. Generalized linear models examined associations between 1) any history of violence exposure, 2) each type of violence exposure, and 3) summed exposures to different types of violence, and frequent absenteeism (≥2 absences in past 30 days).


      Of all participants (overall n = 499), 45.5% reported frequent absenteeism and 71.5% reported violence exposure. Any self-reported violence exposure was associated with absenteeism (aRR = 1.43, 95%CI: 1.06–1.92). However, no specific type of violence exposure predicted absenteeism. Comparing summed exposures to different types of violence to no violence exposure, exposure to 1 type of violence was associated with absenteeism (aRR = 1.59, 95%CI: 1.15–2.20), with no evidence of stronger associations with greater exposure (2–3 types: aRR = 1.37, 95%CI: 1.00–1.88; ≥4 types: aRR = 1.31, 95%CI: 0.98–1.74).


      Youth in this sample reported both high rates of violence exposure and absenteeism. Prior violence exposure was associated with absenteeism. Resources and contextual support for youth exposed to family or community violence may play a role in school attendance, emphasizing need for trauma-sensitive approaches to absenteeism.



      ACE (adverse childhood experience), TDV (teen dating violence), SV (sexual violence), SD (standard deviation), RR (risk ratio), aRR (adjusted risk ratio), CI (confidence interval)
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