Understanding girls’ disengagement: identifying patterns and the role of teacher and peer support using latent growth modeling

Emma C. Burns, Keiko C. P. Bostwick, Rebecca J. Collie, Andrew J. Martin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Previous work has established a significant increase in disengagement as students progress through secondary school. This work has also established that rates of disengagement appear to be higher among boys, leading to an increased focus on the underlying causes and factors associated with disengagement within this population. However, less is known about the patterns of disengagement exhibited by girls. Given that disengagement is consistently associated with negative personal and academic outcomes, it is important to more closely examine the disengagement trajectories of girls. Moreover, it critical to identify factors that buffer the effects of disengagement that are the most effective for girls. Classroom interpersonal support from teachers and peers have been identified as factors that are likely to mitigate disengagement among girls. The present investigation examined longitudinal data from Australian adolescent girls (N = 302, age range 12–16 years old). Latent growth modeling was used to examine the extent to which disengagement was increasing among secondary school girls in Australia, as well as the effects of teacher and peer social support in slowing this increase. The results showed that disengagement significantly increased across 3 years and that teacher support (but not peer support) was associated with a reduction in girls’ upward disengagement trajectories. The results of the current study provide much-needed insight about the developmental trajectories of disengagement among adolescent girls and the role of teachers in buffering these problematic trajectories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)979-995
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • disengagement
  • teacher support
  • peer support
  • adolescent development
  • girls’ education
  • latent growth modeling


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