The effect of ecological factors on school engagement



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School engagement is associated with higher achievement and lower school drop- out rates. Teacher, peer, and parent relationships are critical in the development of school engagement. However, most researchers have looked at the effects of these relationships on school engagement in isolation. Also, few studies have looked at how the impact of these relationships on school engagement may vary as the result of school attended, age, gender, and race. The purpose of this study was to contribute to the growing body of research exploring the mechanisms that underlie the socio-emotional antecedents of school engagement. A theoretical framework for the examination of school engagement as an assessment of how well family, teacher, and peer relationships are meeting students' needs drew from Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecological model and Catalano and Hawkins (1996) social development model. Latent variable structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to analyze an archival data set that included 2,217 students in grades 6 through 8 attending three public middle schools in Texas. Results indicated that reported levels of school engagement were explained primarily by peer and teacher relationships. Family context played an indirect role on school engagement, via its influence on peer and teacher relationships. Grade, gender, and race also impacted how relational factors influenced school engagement. Results highlight the importance of positive relationships with family, peers, and teachers, in increasing the development of school engagement. Results also highlight taking into account the unique needs of the student based on his or her age, gender, and ethnic background when designing interventions for school engagement.