Children who are frequently or persistently absent from school tend to perform poorly in school and are likely to drop out before graduation from high school. Excessive school absence has significant implications in terms of maladaptive behavior, wasted opportunities, and future unemployment and welfare costs. Epidemiologic information about this problem suggests that physical and mental health problems of students or their families are the sole or contributing cause of this behavior in more than 50% of cases. Excessive school absence may signal such health problems as poor coping with or management of chronic illness, masked depression, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, inappropriate responses to minor illnesses, or severe family dysfunction. School absence patterns appear to be a readily available, easy-to-use marker of childhood dysfunction which lends itself to screening large numbers of children for unmet health needs. Attention to this area of child behavior as part of routine health care will frequently uncover previously unrecognized health problems in children and their families.
- Received February 2, 1981.
- Accepted July 16, 1981.
- Copyright © 1982 by the American Academy of Pediatrics