Mental Health and Dropout Behavior: A Cross-Sectional Study of Junior High Students in Northwest Rural China

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International Journal of Educational Development, Vol. 41, page(s): 1-12

March 2015

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Junior high dropout rates are up to 25% in poor, rural areas of China. Although existing studies have examined how factors such as high tuition and opportunity costs contribute to dropout, fewer studies have explored the relationship between dropout rates and mental health in rural China. The overall goal of this study is to examine the relationship between dropout and mental health problems in rural Chinese junior high schools. Correlational analysis was conducted among 4,840 students across 38 junior high schools in rural China. Ordinary least squares (OLS) regressions were used to determine the types of students most at risk for mental health problems and whether mental health problems are correlated with dropout behavior. Our measure for mental health is based on the Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale. Mental health problems are widespread in the sample of rural children, with 74% of students at risk for mental health problems. The student and family characteristics that correlate with dropout (poverty and low achievement) also correlate with mental health problems. More importantly, even after controlling for these background characteristics, mental health problems remain correlated with dropout rates. Mental health problems, especially among low-achieving poor students, may be contributing to the high dropout rates in rural China today. This finding suggests that interventions focusing on mental health in rural areas may also help reduce dropout.

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