Student misbehavior: An exploratory study of individual, familial, social, and institutional influences

Susan Poland Giancola, University of Pennsylvania


Student misbehavior is a problem affecting schools across the nation and around the world. Student conduct problems in the classroom not only interfere with teaching and learning but are also thought to be a leading contributor to teacher stress and a precursor to later school dropout. Many districts and schools are aggressively searching for programs to remediate and reform problematic behavior in students. However, to develop successful programs, it is important to understand first what constitutes student misbehavior and second why students behave the way they do. This research examines student misbehavior in the context of individual, familial, social, and institutional influences. The subjects for this study are participants in the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, a nationally representative sample of 8 th grade schools and students. Factors explaining student behavior focus on three time points—1988, 1990, and 1992—following students from 8th grade through their senior year. The results from this study confirm the existence of a common general misbehavior construct comprised of both misbehavior and substance abuse items as consistent with problem behavior theory. Upon examination of the relative importance of known risk and protective factors for adolescent misbehavior, the influence of an adolescent's peers on his or her misbehavior was the most important influence throughout the high school years. Moreover, while many researchers have linked school size to student behavior, this study found that large schools do not necessarily pose a risk to students but that small schools might aid in protecting students from behavior problems. Finally, this study found that self-concept and reading achievement were associated with behavior problems in 10 th grade, while parent involvement was a very important risk factor for and protective factor against behavior problems in 12th grade. It is hoped that the findings from this research can be used to help schools design appropriate programs for the treatment and prevention of adolescent behavior problems.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Psychological tests|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Social psychology|Behaviorial sciences

Recommended Citation

Giancola, Susan Poland, "Student misbehavior: An exploratory study of individual, familial, social, and institutional influences" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9913459.