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PARENTS’ AND ADOLESCENTS’ PERCEPTIONS OF SAFETY IN SCHOOL: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS MCH Epidemiology Conference December 7, 2005 Catherine Vladutiu †, Talia.

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Presentation on theme: "PARENTS’ AND ADOLESCENTS’ PERCEPTIONS OF SAFETY IN SCHOOL: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS MCH Epidemiology Conference December 7, 2005 Catherine Vladutiu †, Talia."— Presentation transcript:

1 PARENTS’ AND ADOLESCENTS’ PERCEPTIONS OF SAFETY IN SCHOOL: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS MCH Epidemiology Conference December 7, 2005 Catherine Vladutiu †, Talia Engelhart †, Mary D. Overpeck †, Denise Haynie ‡, William Modzeleski * † U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration Maternal and Child Health Bureau Office of Data and Program Development ‡ National Institute of Child Health & Human Development Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention Research * U.S. Department of Education Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools

2 OBJECTIVES To describe the differences in the ways parents and students perceive safety in school To measure differences in perceptions by age, race & ethnicity, gender, parental education, and urbanicity

3 HYPOTHESES Parents perceive their children’s schools are safer than students’ believe their schools to be Age, gender, race & ethnicity, parental education, and urbanicity will be associated with the differences in perceptions of safety.

4 BACKGROUND School safety is a critical component of education, social development, and general well-being School safety (absence of): any threat to a student’s well being that could result from human action, which may be self-inflicted or imposed by others 1 School safety is associated with bullying, fighting, and weapon carrying in school

5 SCHOOL VIOLENCE 2002:

6 BACKGROUND Studies have shown students feel unsafe at school, fear being hurt, and skip school to avoid violence 1,2,3,4,5 Adolescents often perceive safety in school in terms of safety in community Studies have shown parents believe their children are safe, but not much is known about how much they know about safety in school 6,7,8

7 LITERATURE REVIEW Age Older students are less likely to feel safe 1,2 Race & Ethnicity Race has not been shown to be a significant factor in school safety 8, 14 Hispanic and NH Black students are more likely to miss school from feeling unsafe and more likely to be threatened at school Gender Boys feel less safe than girls 6, 7,11 Urbanicity Few children feel safe in urban schools 1,2,3,13 Parental Education Not widely measured in the current literature 7, 8

8 BACKGROUND Safety perceptions are important because… Students’ perceptions may help to deter or promote negative behavior Parents’ perceptions may influence their willingness to support prevention efforts Teachers’ perceptions may influence when/how they are willing to intervene

9 RESEARCH QUESTIONS Are there differences between parents’ and student’s perceptions of safety? Are there differences in perceptions of safety by age, gender, race & ethnicity, parental education, and urbanicity?

10 DATA SOURCES Health Behaviors in School-Aged Children (HBSC) (2001/2002) After exclusion of missing responses and children <11; n=13, 685 Measures: Students’ perception of safety Age Gender Race & ethnicity Urbanicity Parental education National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) (2003) After exclusion of missing responses and children <11; n=35, 439 Measures: Parental perception of safety Child’s age Child’s gender Child’s race & ethnicity Urbanicity Parental education

11 MEASURES- HBSC Perceptions of school safety: Students reported their level of agreement with the following statement: “I feel safe at school.” Responses were classified on a five-point scale as either: “Strongly agree” “Agree” “Neither agree nor disagree” “Disagree” “Strongly disagree”

12 MEASURES- HBSC Age (self-reported) Gender (self-reported) Race & ethnicity Responses were combined into 5 categories: Non-Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, Multiple races (student endorsed more than one race), and other races. Urbanicity Three categories of urbanicity were used: urban (city), suburban (near a large city) and rural (not near a large city). Parental Education Students reported parent education separately for mothers and fathers, with the highest level of education selected: less than 12 years, 12 years, or more than 12 years of education.

13 MEASURES-NSCH Perceptions of school safety: Parents or guardians reported perceptions of their child’s safety by responding to the following question: “How often do you feel [he/she] (child) is safe at school?” Responses included: “Never” “Sometimes” “Usually” or “Always” “Don’t know” “Refused”

14 MEASURES-NSCH Age (parental report of child) Gender (parental report of child) Race & ethnicity Responses were combined into 5 categories: Non-Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, Multiple (parents who endorsed more than one race), and other races. Urbanicity Parents reported their zip codes and were categorized into urban, suburban and rural classifications. Parental education Parents reported their education level by responding to a question asking for the highest level of education attained in the household: less than 12 years, 12 years, or more than 12 years of education.

15 METHODS Prevalence Risk Ratios

16 DEMOGRAPHICS Age (HBSC) Age (NSCH)

17 DEMOGRAPHICS GenderRace & Ethnicity

18 DEMOGRAPHICS Parental Education Urbanicity

19 SAFETY PERCEPTIONS HBSC NSCH

20 RESULTS -Age

21

22 Students: 16 year olds were significantly more likely to feel unsafe than year olds; 3 times as likely as 11 year olds [RR= 0.98 ( )] Younger students felt safer at school (43.9%) Parents: Age was not a factor for parental perceptions of safety among those who felt their child was never safe at school (no increased risk in feeling safe or unsafe) Parents of younger children felt their children were more safe at school (61.6%) than older children (45.4%)

23 RESULTS -Gender Students: Boys were twice as likely to feel unsafe at school than girls Parents: No significant differences in response by child’s gender

24 RESULTS –Race & Ethnicity Students: Non-Hispanic black students reported feeling the least safe (12.2%); they were significantly more likely and at a higher risk of feeling less safe than other groups (RR=1.13) Non-Hispanic White students reported feeling the safest at school (32.1%) Parents: Parents of Hispanic children felt their child was the least safe (6.2%)

25 RESULTS -Urbanicity Students: Students living in urban areas were less likely to feel safe (25.1%) Parents: No significant differences in safety perceptions by urbanicity; suburban and rural parents felt their children were slightly more safe than urban parents

26 RESULTS -Parental Education Students: Students with parents who completed more than 12 years of education were more likely to feel safe Students with parents with <12 years of education were at a higher risk of feeling unsafe (RR=1.05) Parents: As years of parental education increased, parents were less likely to feel their child was unsafe at school, but not more likely to feel their child was always safe

27 LIMITATIONS Data from two different sources Year of data collection Sample size Validity of self report Framing of safety perception questions (categorization)

28 SUMMARY Parents do not have the same fear regarding their children’s safety that students have As children aged, they felt less safe at school Gender illustrated a greater gap between boys and girls’ perceptions of safety (boys felt less safe)

29 SUMMARY Students’ perceptions were more influenced by race than those of the parents (NH Black students felt less safe) Urbanicity status was associated with safety perceptions among students more so than among parents; urban students felt less safe Parental education uniformly affected both students’ and parents’ perceptions; higher parental education= feeling safer in school

30 PUBLIC HEALTH IMPLICATIONS Feeling unsafe at school is prevalent among students (40%) and may contribute to greater school absence, social conflicts, and low self-esteem Parental awareness of how safe their children are at school is critical to the promotion of policies and programs aimed at improving school safety; the lack of awareness may prevent the implementation of effective change in schools Unsafe schools perpetuate fear and anger instead of learning which may lead to negative physical, psychological, and social well-being

31 NEXT STEPS Further research and policy changes based on studies like this can minimize the gap between parental and student perceptions to ensure a safer environment Future analyses should investigate the perceptions of parents and their actual children within one study as well as examine safety perceptions among school officials and educators School safety questions should be included in future surveys and should include specific items that may provide students’ reasons for their perception of safety

32 CONTACT INFORMATION Catherine Vladutiu, MPH HRSA/Maternal and Child Health Bureau Office of Data & Program Development 5600 Fishers Lane, Room Rockville, MD T: (301) For more information: HRSA Bullying Campaign:

33 REFERENCES 1 Kisantas A, Ware H. Students’ perceptions of school safety: effects by community, school environment, and substance use variables. Journal of Early Adolescence. 2004; 4: Martin, SL, Sadowski, LS, Cotton, NU, et al. Response of African-American Adolescents in North Carolina to Gun Carrying by School Mates. Journal of School Health. 1996; 66(1): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Surveillance Summaries, May 21, MMWR 2004:53(No. SS-2). 4 Malecki CK, Demaray MK. Carrying a Weapon to School and Perceptions of Social Support in an Urban Middle School. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. 2003:11: Snyder HN., Sickmund M. Juvenile offenders and victims: 1999 national report. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. 6 Nansel TR, Overpeck M, Pilla RS, Ruan WJ, et al. Bullying Behaviors Among US Youth. JAMA. 2001; 285: Kandakai TL, Price JH, Tellijohann SK, Wilson CA. Mothers’ Perceptions of Factors Influencing Violence in Schools. The Journal of School Health. 1999; 69: Stockdale, MS, Hangaduambo, S, et al. Rural Elementary Students’, Parents’, and Teachers’ Perceptions of Bullying. American Journal of Health Behavior. 2002;26(4): Kingery PM, Coggeshall MB, Alford AA. Violence at School: Recent Evidence from Four National Surveys. Psychology in the Schools. 1998; 35: Sheehan K, Kim LE, Galvin JP. Urban Children’s Perceptions of Violence. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 2004:158: Everett SA, Price JH, Price MS. Students’ Perceptions of Violence in the Public Schools: The MetLife Survey. Journal of Adolescent Health. 1995; 17:


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