The Ecological Context of Chronic School Absenteeism in the Elementary Grades

Erin P. Sugrue, Timothy Zuel, Traci L LaLiberte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Chronic school absenteeism among elementary school-age students is gaining attention from researchers and policymakers because of its relationship to long-term negative educational outcomes. Current literature on effective interventions, however, is limited in terms of the number of studies that have found even marginally effective interventions, the lack of clarity on the interventions being studied, and the connection between the intervention studied and the factors contributing to poor attendance. In response to these gaps in the literature, this study examined the following three research questions: (1) What factors are related to chronic school absenteeism for children in grades K-5 participating in a truancy intervention program? (2) What are the key elements that make up the caseworker intervention component of the program? and (3) How does the caseworker intervention fit with the identified related factors? Interviews were conducted over a two-month period with community agency staff working in the truancy intervention program who were able to provide insight into both the factors related to chronic absenteeism and the interventions that are being used. Results demonstrate that chronic absenteeism is related to a multilevel ecology of factors and suggest that an equally complex ecologically based intervention model is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-145
Number of pages9
JournalChildren and Schools
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • chronic school absenteeism
  • community caseworker interventions
  • ecological framework
  • school social work


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