Cover: The Social Economics of Adolescent Behavior and Measuring the Behavioral Culture of Schools

The Social Economics of Adolescent Behavior and Measuring the Behavioral Culture of Schools

Published in: Journal of Child and Family Studies, Volume 28, pages 928–940 (2019). doi: 10.1007/s10826-018-01325-0

Posted on rand.org Jul 19, 2023

by Mitchell D. Wong, Paul J. Chung, Ron D. Hays, David P. Kennedy, Joan S. Tucker, Rebecca N. Dudovitz

Objectives

Schools are thought to have an important impact on adolescent behaviors, but the mechanisms are not well understood. We hypothesize that there are measurable constructs of peer- and teacher-related extrinsic motivations for adolescent behaviors and sought to develop measures of school culture that would capture these constructs.

Methods

We developed several survey items to assess school behavioral culture and collected self-reported data from a sample of adolescents age 14–17 attending high school in low income neighborhoods of Los Angeles. We conducted exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis to inform the creation of simple-summated multi-item scales. We also conducted a cultural consensus analysis to identify the existence of shared pattern of responses to the items among respondents within the same school.

Results

From 1159 adolescents, six factors were identified: social culture regarding popular (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.84) and respected (alpha = 0.83) behaviors, teacher support (alpha = 0.86) and monitoring of school rules (alpha = 0.85), valued student traits (alpha = 0.67) and school order (alpha = 0.68). Cultural consensus analysis identified a shared pattern of responses to the items among respondents at 8 of the 13 schools. School academic performance, which is based on standardized test results, is strongly correlated with social culture regarding popular behaviors (Pearson’s correlation coefficient r = 0.64), monitoring of school rules (r = 0.71), and school order (r = 0.83).

Conclusions

The exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses did not support a single, overall factor that measures school culture. However, the six identified sub-scales might be used individually to examine school influence on academic performance and health behaviors.

Research conducted by

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