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School Disorder: The Influence of Individual, Institutional, and Community Factors

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 37 Issue: 1 Dated: February 1999 Pages: 73-116
Date Published
February 1999
44 pages

Census data, school district data, police data, and survey data from 7,583 students in 11 middle schools in Philadelphia were used to examine the influence of individual, institutional, and community factors on misconduct in these schools.


The research rested on control theory, school climate theory, and social disorganization theory. The instrument for the student survey was the Effective School Battery. The analysis focused on the following predictors of student misconduct: community poverty and residential stability; community crime; school size; student perceptions of school climate (school attachment); and individual student characteristics (e.g., age, race, sex, school involvement and effort, belief in rules, positive peer associations). Community was conceptualized in two ways. The local community consisted of the census tract around the school; the imported community consisted of aggregated measures from the census tracts where students actually lived. The research used hierarchical linear modeling techniques to examine between-school and within-school factors. Results revealed that individual-level factors accounted for 16 percent of the explained variance; school and community-level factors added only small increments of 4.1 to 4.5 percent. The analysis concluded that simplistic assumptions that bad communities typically produce bad children or bad schools are unjustified. Tables, footnotes, and 89 references (Author abstract modified)

Date Published: February 1, 1999