Efforts to improve child and adolescent health typically have featured interventions designed to address specific health risk behaviors, such as tobacco use, alcohol and drug use, violence, gang involvement, and early sexual initiation. However, results from a growing number of studies suggest that greater health impact might be achieved by also enhancing protective factors that help children and adolescents avoid multiple behaviors that place them at risk for adverse health and educational outcomes. Enhancing protective factors also might buffer children and adolescents from the potentially harmful effects of negative situations and events, such exposure to violence.
Protective factors include personal characteristics such as a positive view of one’s future; life conditions such as frequent parental presence in the home at key times (e.g., after school, at dinner time); and behaviors such as active participation in school activities. School connectedness is a particularly promising protective factor. This publication defines and describes the components of school connectedness and identifies specific actions that schools can take to increase school connectedness.
What Is School Connectedness?
In 2003, the Wingspread Conference was sponsored by CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health and the Johnson Foundation to bring together key researchers and representatives from the education and health sectors to assess the state of knowledge about school connectedness and its effect on health and education outcomes. Through an extensive review of research and in-depth discussions, the interdisciplinary group defined school connectedness and identified, in the Wingspread Declaration on School Connections, strategies that schools could implement to increase it. School connectedness was defined as the belief by students that adults in the school care about their learning as well as about them as individuals. Because studies indicate that individual students’ feelings of being connected to school are influenced by their peers as well as by adults, this publication has expanded that definition to include peer influence.
School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors Among Youth