School functioning and violent behavior among young adolescents: A contextual analysis

Amanda S. Birnbaum, Leslie A. Lytle, Peter J Hannan, David M. Murray, Cheryl L. Perry, Jean Forster

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


This paper examines associations between overall school functioning and frequency of violent behaviors among young adolescents (ages 10-14). The sample included 16 middle schools participating in an unrelated intervention study (on nutrition) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A School Functioning Index, developed to characterize schools' overall stability, performance and demographics, was constructed using data from public archives and school administrator surveys. Data on violent behaviors and other variables were collected in student surveys in fall 1998 and spring 1999. We used multilevel modeling to assess the effect of school functioning on violent behavior after adjusting for known individual-level covariates of violent behaviors. We found an interaction between school functioning (group-level variable) and expectations for future education (individual-level variable). Among students who reported expectations of completing a college degree (71% of the sample), positive school functioning was negatively associated with violent behaviors. Among students that reported expectations of completing less than a college degree, no association was found between school functioning and violent behaviors. These results support earlier work suggesting that objectively measured school characteristics are associated with students' violent behaviors even after accounting for individual-level factors and also identify a subgroup of students for whom school detachment may be an issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-403
Number of pages15
JournalHealth education research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2003


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