Explaining educational differences in truancy; testing the possible mediating role of substance use, family factors, and unsafety in the school environment.
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Objective: Adolescent educational level is clearly linked to truancy, while it is unclear which factors may explain this linkage. Therefore, this study examines educational differences in truancy within a nationally representative sample of Dutch adolescents. With substance use, family factors, and perceived unsafety in the school environment as possible mediators. Methods: Data from the 2017 HBSC-study were used, in which complete data were available from 5999 participants aged 11-18 (M = 13.72, SD = 1.35), attending the first four years of secondary education. Results: Binary logistic regressions showed educational differences for all substances, which in turn, showed higher chances of reporting truancy. No educational differences were found for the student-teacher relationship. Employment of the parents, family affluence, and classroom atmosphere were not related to truancy. Conclusion: Students in lower educational levels were more likely to report truancy. The final model tested cannabis use, alcohol use, smoking, growing up in a one-parent household, and being bullied as possible mediators, which could partially explain educational differences. Remarkable is the direct relationship between substance use and truancy, which is much stronger than the direct link tested in this study. Future research should therefore focus on the mechanisms behind substance use and truancy.