Truancy: Causes, Effects and Possible Solutions


Truancy refers to the deliberate and unauthorized absence from school, whether it be for valid reasons or not. In this case, a student misses classes on their own free will. It does not include legitimate excused absences that could occur due to situations like illness or tragedy. In many states, absenteeism is clearly defined in the handbook of policies and procedures that guide the operation of institutions. There are several consequences of engaging in truancy, the most common being the inability to graduate and the denial of credits for certain classes. Absenteeism has many causes, including schools, parents, and youth-related situations. It has serious personal and legal implications if not mitigated early. Potential solutions include mentoring, community-based interventions, communication training, and the involvement of law enforcement.


Several factors are responsible for truancy, and in many instances, multiple factors can be identified in individual cases. The environment at home and school, parental involvement or absence, and youth-related issues are common causes. Understanding the cause of absenteeism is important in the implementation of prevention strategies.


Schools are responsible for creating safe and peaceful learning environments for children. In that regard, learners might miss classes if the learning environment does not support their physical and mental safety. Administrators should track student attendance and performance, communicate frequently with parents, and ensure that students understand what is expected of them (Garcia & Weiss, 2018). Schools cause truancy in several ways, including failing to meet the needs of students, ignoring learners’ mental health challenges, and allowing students to struggle with learning difficulties without receiving professional help. Bullying is a serious challenge that many children encounter. If teachers do not take action and make victims of bullying feel safe, then they are likely to skip school (Garcia & Weiss, 2018). Truancy is an issue that has been debated widely and that has caused controversies. Administrators blame parents and home life while parents and learners fault the education system, citing reasons like boring classes, bullying, and poor teaching methods.

Hostile environments can also be cited as major causes of truancy. Students who do not have friends or who are bullied are likely to skip school to avoid the pain of being regarded as social outcasts. This is problematic for students who dress differently or whose sexual orientation contradicts that of the majority (Gubbels, Van der Put, & Assink, 2019). Moreover, peer pressure also plays a significant role in the development of the delinquent behavior. Administrators should ensure that bullying due to one’s sexual orientation, race, or gender does not take place. Otherwise, students will choose to stay at home rather than go to school and face ridicule.


Parents or guardians have a responsibility of creating a safe environment at home that will cater to the needs of their children. They should send children to school on time, monitor their activities, and talk to them regularly about their performance (Garcia & Weiss, 2018). Parents cause truancy in many ways: poor parenting, placing little value on education, abuse and neglect, and inability to supervise children (Gubbels et al., 2019). Students whose parents are usually absent and who place little value on education are likely to skip school because they do not have role models to show them the importance of education. Moreover, children who are abused and neglected are likely to become truant.

There are numerous factors in a child’s personal or home life that could lead to truancy. For instance, if the parents use drugs or abuse alcohol, then the risk of absenteeism increases. In this case, the guardians are less likely to care about their children’s academic progress or mental health. Other factors such as divorce and physical abuse have been cited as common causes of absenteeism (Gubbels et al., 2019). Studies have shown that a family’s socioeconomic status has a direct correlation with truancy. In that regard, children from lower income families are more likely to skip school when compared to children from higher income homesteads.

Youth-Related Factors

Students have a responsibility to attend school, follow the directions of parents and teachers, work toward creating a safe learning environment, and talk about issues that affect their wellbeing. Truancy could be avoided if students reported issues that affect them to their teachers (Kerase-McCastler, 2019). However, in many cases, they struggle to solve challenges on their own, and if they cannot get solutions, skip school to avoid encountering them again. Youth related factors that are involved include peer pressure, bullying, pregnancy, lack of interest, mental health issues, low self-esteem and poor academic performance (Gubbels et al., 2019). Others include drug and alcohol use, a poor social life, and participation in gang activities.

Effects of Truancy

Studies have shown that absenteeism can have adverse effects on students and the community. This is evident from statistics that have shown that approximately 9 in 10 prisoners are high school dropouts (Kerase-McCastler, 2019). The short-term effects on students include involvement in criminal gangs, poor academic performance, and quitting education (Kerase-McCastler, 2019). Long-term effects include increased risk of incarceration and addiction, poor mental health, and poverty. Other adverse effects include unstable relationships, social isolation, failure to graduate, falling behind in school, and unemployment (Kerase-McCastler, 2019). Chronic truancy is directly correlated with low wages, unemployment, and a low quality of life due to poverty.

Communities and families are affected too due to increased crime, poverty, unemployment, and poor mental health. The long-term effects of truancy include marital instability, adult criminality, violence, and job insecurity. Surveys have shown that two of the most adverse effects of absenteeism are an increase in crime and the population of incarcerated individuals (Kerase-McCastler, 2019). The behavior has been linked with high rates of delinquency (McGee, 2018). Adult criminal activities such as vandalism, burglary, and auto theft are commonly reported among people who dropped out of school.

Historical Issues

Truancy has existed for many decades, and permanent solutions have not yet been found. Two key features that have not changed over the past century are economic circumstances and social welfare. There is a direct link between absenteeism and social class. Certain working-class groups do not value education highly and children from low-income families are likely to become truant. Schools can mitigate this challenge by conducting stricter monitoring. However, it is difficult in areas where education is not valued. Another issue is the lack of change in the legal framework for dealing with the problem. Many initiatives have been implemented to mitigate absenteeism. However, little progress has been made. It is imperative for federal and state governments to stop their overreliance on local authority education services for the enforcement of anti-truancy laws.

Current Status

Some researchers have shown that the increase in absenteeism in the past two decades has been insignificant. A study conducted by Maynard et al. (2017) revealed that there was no considerable increase between the years 2002 and 2014. The results of the study revealed that truancy levels were 10.8% in 2002 and 11.1% in 2014, thus the increase was insignificant. The incidence was higher among older youth and females. The relationship between absenteeism and alcohol and marijuana use was similar among all racial ethnic groups. Numerous efforts aimed at mitigating the problem have been implemented. However, it remains a serious issue that requires urgent mitigation. One of the criticisms leveled against school districts is that they are not keen on implementing education policies aimed at curbing truancy.

Other surveys have shown that absenteeism has been on the rise in the past five years. A report released by The Education Trust showed that 16% (approximately 8 million) of K-12 students were chronically absent during the 2015/2016 school year (Maynard, Vaughn, Nelson, Salas-Wright, Heyne, & Kremer, 2018). This number was 2% (2 million) more than that reported in the 2013/2014 academic year. The rates of truancy vary from one state or district to another. Detroit reports the highest rates of absenteeism in the state of Michigan. For instance, in the 2016/2017 year, approximately 56.3% of students were frequently absent from school, representing a 2% increase from the previous year (Maynard et al., 2018). In some states, cases of truancy are misrepresented and students graduate without fulfilling all the requirements. Teachers in states like Ohio, South Carolina, Vermont, Wyoming, New York, and Pennsylvania have criticized certain districts for promoting and graduating students who were chronically absent (Maynard et al., 2018). This trend has led to the inclusion of chronic absenteeism into federal accountability plans in order to curb the behavior.

Impact on Education System

The main impacts of truancy on the education system are poor academic performance and higher number of dropouts. Students who frequently skip school suffer negative consequences that include lower achievement, course failure, increased risk of dropping out, and disengagement from academic matters (McGee, 2018). A recent trend has emerged that involves school districts graduating students who were chronically absent. For instance, in 2018, 34% of graduates in Washington, DC received their diplomas even though they had missed many school days (McGee, 2018). The education system is losing its credibility because poorly-prepared students are graduating without completing the required curriculum.

Widespread policy violations have led to criticisms of states’ education systems and the quality of graduates. For instance, in DC, more than 900 students in public institutes graduated, although they had missed months of school in 2018 (McGee, 2018). Examples of contraventions reported included the inappropriate use of credit recovery, failure to follow district attendance policies, and insufficient oversight (McGee, 2018). Administrators cover up chronic absenteeism by violating attendance policies and allowing students who miss several classes without authorization to graduate. The main goal is to make certain institutions look good, despite the aforementioned violations. On the other hand, teachers act out of fear that they could receive negative evaluations if they do not comply with requests from school administrators (McGee, 2018). Allowing chronically absent students to graduate ensures that teachers receive positive evaluations and appraisals.

Possible Solutions

There are several strategies that can be applied in combating truancy. Instructional, community-based, and behavioral interventions have been effectively implemented in many cases to lower rates of absenteeism. Each of these strategies focuses on specific factors, and their effectiveness differs significantly.

Behavioral Intervention

Positive Behavior Support (PBS) and Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) are examples of commonly used interventions that focus on behavioral adjustments. PBS incorporates various practices that are either universal or individual-based. FBA focuses more on individual behavior and involves the collection of information with regard to the function of a student’s behavior (Ramberg, Laftman, Fransson, & Modin, 2018). The process includes self-evaluation, self-monitoring, and positive reinforcement, and the main goal is to teach learners to take responsibility for their behavior and academic performance.

Community-Based Interventions

Community-based interventions are effective in mitigating absenteeism and improving attendance rates. Examples of such projects include the Abolish Chronic Truancy Now (ACT Now) and Truancy Reduction Demonstration Program (TRDP). ACT Now comprises three main elements that are interconnected. The first is the enforcement of mandatory school attendance legislation that holds parents responsible for their children’s actions (Maynard et al., 2018). The second is a diversion program that helps parents and students to find potential solutions. The third is the implementation of sanctions for students who fail to complete the diversion program (Maynard et al., 2018). The two interventions include monitoring, case management, welfare restrictions, and mentoring. The involvement of the entire community (parents, law enforcement, instructors, and social services) ensures that truancy rates decrease and the youth learn about the value of education.

Parental Involvement

Research has shown that parents are a critical component in the fights against truancy. In that regard, parents should play an active role in their child’s education. For example, they should make sure that they complete their school work and projects in a timely manner (Maynard et al., 2018). It is important for them to talk to their children about the importance of class attendance. Children whose parents do not talk to them about the importance of education are likely to skip school and fail to do their assignments (Ramberg et al., 2018). Parents can also teach their children about the importance of education by volunteering to work on class projects together. They should also monitor their feelings with regard to aspects such as socialization, homework, and tests (Maynard et al., 2018). Maintaining communication with teachers is also necessary so that they can discuss about issues that affect academic performance or that could lead to delayed graduation.


Truancy can be defined as the unauthorized absence from school. This is a serious problem that has adverse effects on students, communities, families, and the society at large. It has numerous causes that range from the environment, parents, and youth-related issues. The learning environment is a key indicator of whether students enjoy the experiences or not. For example, an environment in which bullying is condoned creates a lot of pressure on some students, who prefer to stay at home rather than go to school. Parents who use drugs and alcohol, or who physically and verbally abuse their children increase the risk of truancy. They are uninterested in their children’s education and they rarely talk to them about the value of education. Youth-related factors such as peer pressure, bullying, and mental health issues also cause absenteeism. Potential solutions include therapy, parental involvement, and community-based as well as behavioral interventions. Parents should talk to their children about their academic performance, the value of education, and why it is important to attend classes.


Garcia, E., & Weiss, E. (2018). Student absenteeism: Who misses school and how missing school matters for performance. Web.

Gubbels, J., Van der Put, C. E., & Assink, M. (2019). Risk factors for school absenteeism and dropout: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 1(48), 1637–1667.

Kerase-McCastler, G. (2019). Transforming truancy: Exploring factors and strategies that impact truancy among youth. Conneaut Lake, PA: Page Publishing Inc.

Maynard, B. R., Vaughn, M. G., Nelson, E. J., Salas-Wright, C. P., Heyne, D. A., & Kremer, K. P. (2018). Truancy in the United States: Examining temporal trends and correlates by race. Age, and gender. Child and Youth Services Review 1(81), 188–196.

McGee, K. (2018). In D.C. 34 percent of graduates received a diploma against district policy. Web.

Ramberg, J., Laftman, S. B., Fransson, E., & Modin, B. (2018). School effectiveness and truancy: A multilevel study of upper secondary schools in Stockholm. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth 24(2), 185–198.

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