What Challenges Are Boys Facing, and What Opportunities Exist To Address Those Challenges? Fact Sheet: Education*. What Factors Increase or Decrease the Risk of Academic Failure?


Researchers have studied students’ academic achievements and challenges to better understand why some boys and girls succeed in school while others struggle or drop out. In the process, they have learned valuable lessons about risk factors — those traits and life experiences that can jeopardize a person’s healthy development — and protective factors — the characteristics and life experiences that can increase a person’s likelihood of positive outcomes.

Individual risk factors for academic failure include:

  • Low socioeconomic status(14),(15),(16)
  • Pessimism about the future(17)
  • Lack of feeling connected to school(18)
  • Drug use(19)

The following family, school, and community factors contribute to risks for academic failure:

  • Poor family communication or family conflict, especially for boys(20)
  • Low expectations regarding academic achievement(21)
  • Having friends who are disruptive in class or drop out of school(22)
  • Negative school climate, such as poor attitudes or unconstructive interactions among students, teachers, and administrators; classroom disruptions; or feeling unsafe at school(23)
  • Lack of educational resources, such as libraries(24),(25)

Factors that contribute to academic achievement include:

  • Ability to pay attention in class(26)
  • Participating in extracurricular activities(27),(28)
  • Parental monitoring and involvement(29),(30)
  • Involvement with positive peer group activities and good relationships with peers(31)
  • Presence and involvement of caring and supportive adults(32)
  • Community or service learning opportunities(33)

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