- At-Risk Kids Send Danger Signals

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At-Risk Kids Send Danger Signals

      How students feel about their school may indicate their potential risk for unhealthy and potentially dangerous behavior, according to a Cincinnati doctor who surveyed 2,000 high-school students for a study.

      The study on "school connectedness," published in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics by lead author Dr. Andrea Bonny, found common characteristics among young people who feel disconnected from their schools.

      Such feelings put them at greater risk of poor health and unsafe behaviors, such as drug abuse, violence, pregnancy, early sexual behavior, and mental health issues.

      Bonny, a physician at Children''s Hospital Medical Center, said acts of school violence around the country have raised the issue of how to identify well-adjusted and maladjusted children.

      The study, conducted in conjunction with the Hamilton County (Ohio) Family and Children First Council, found students who don''t feel connected to their schools share four common traits:

      Perceived poor health.

      Cigarette use.

      Increasing visits to the school nurse.

      Lack of extracurricular activities.

      All four characteristics are "changeable" behaviors, Bonny said.

      Bonny said the conclusions raise the issue of whether a school nurse can be trained to identify these students and offer interventions, because three of the four factors are health-related.

      The study also implies that greater involvement in school- sponsored extracurricular activities could help students who feel alienated.

      "If we put extra money into clubs, will it make a difference?" she said. "We found it doesn''t matter what club you''re in, you can be in the geeky club, and it''s still protective. Kids feel more connected than those who are in nothing. We do know the two are associated." Bonny and a team of evaluators surveyed nearly 2,000 students in eight Cincinnati-area public middle and high schools in Grades 7 through 12 for three years. The study is an analysis of the first survey from the spring of 1998.


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