This study examined the utility of Bronfenbrenner‘s Ecological Theory as a metatheory of dropout. Using the NELS: 1988 dataset, the present study examined the relationship between dropout attributions and Bronfenbrenner‘s construct, the microsystem. Attention was given to accounting for students‘ attributions regarding their identity (e.g., demographic and profile characteristics) with environmental and regional contexts as possible moderators. In particular, the present study examined the responses given as reasons for dropout in view of how those responses could be categorized with Bronfenbrenner‘s theoretical structure and the extent to which the resulting categorization could predict dropout, considering related demographic variable.
This study entailed two distinct, but related phases. The initial phase was an examination exploring the extent to which NELS: 1988 responses about reasons for dropout could be appropriately classified in the levels of microsystem, exosystem, mesosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem in Bronfenbrenner‘s theory. During the second phase, the study examined whether applications of Bronfenbrenner‘s theory could predict dropout, when gender, race/ethnicity, urbanicity, and region were controlled. Using logistic regression analysis as a tool, the second phase of the study used outcomes of the initial phase to investigate the utility of a factor apparently reflecting Bronfenbrenner‘s microsystem as a predictor of dropout. The dependent variable in this phase was dropout status. The independent variables were gender, race, geographic region, urbanicity, and Bronfenbrenner‘s theoretical level.
The results indicated applications of Bronfenbrenner‘s microsystem could predict dropout, when gender, region, urbanicity, and race/ethnicity were controlled. Further, the findings suggested Asian students were less likely than White students to dropout, while Latino students were more likely than African American students to dropout. Moreover, identifying as an American Indian was not a statistically significant predictor of dropout, while membership in all other racial/ethnic study groups was a statistically significant predictor of dropout. The findings also suggested attending a school in the northeast region of United States increased the likelihood of dropout.
Keywords: National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988.