"Truancy" is defined as an unexcused absence from school, and it also applies to students who are chronically late. During 2007 and 2008, 30 percent of middle school students were chronically absent and 20 percent of elementary school students missed at least one month of school, according to "A Tool for Assessing Truancy Risk among School Children: Predictive and Contract Validity of the Risk Indicator Survey."
Several factors in a child's home or personal life can contribute to truancy. For example, if drugs or alcohol is used in the home, then children are at an increased risk of being absent from school. Other problems such as divorce, physical or verbal abuse and frequent moving from place to place also cause chronic absenteeism. According to "Truancy as a Contextual and School-Related Problem: A Comparative Multilevel Analysis of Country and School Characteristics on Civic Knowledge among Fourteen Year Olds," children from lower income families are more vulnerable to truancy when compared to higher income families and parents who are not involved in their child's school life.
A hostile school environment can also cause truancy. Students who lack friends or are being bullied are likely to skip school. This factor is especially applicable to students who look, act or dress differently. In addition, some kids may face peer pressure to skip class. Truancy is seen among students who lack confidence in their mental abilities or have learning disabilities. High truancy rates are seen in schools that have antagonistic relationships between staff and students and a poor attendance policy.
Being absent from class decreases a student's ability to learn. It is difficult to succeed if a student misses too much work, because it is hard to catch up. In addition, absent students lose interest in school, which results in low academic performance. Although truancy has known effects on individuals, truancy has negative effects on the overall learning environment.
Without proper supervision during the day, truant teens are more likely to get involved in criminal activities, such as vandalism or shoplifting. Truancy can also lead to delinquency if students begin associating with gangs. Being chronically absent from school causes children to engage in substance abuse. In fact, truancy is a risk factor for marijuana use.
Truancy creates problems beyond high school. For example, since truant students are more likely to drop out of school, they have decreased opportunities for career advancement. The lack of opportunity to go to college due to poor grades limits employment options and increases the likelihood of lower salaries and unemployment. In addition, children who are absent from school may experience adult criminality or incarceration later in life.