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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2015

Socioeconomic differences in school dropout among young adults: the role of social relations

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
Trine Nøhr Winding, Johan Hviid Andersen
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s12889-015-2391-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

All authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

JHA initiated the study. TNW designed and performed the analyses and wrote the main paper. JHA helped analysing and interpreting the data and commented on the manuscript at all stages. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



School dropout in adolescence is an important social determinant of health inequality in a lifetime perspective. It is commonly accepted that parental background factors are associated with later dropout, but to what extent social relations mediate this association is not yet fully understood.
Aim: To investigate the effect of social relations on the association between parental socioeconomic position and school dropout in the Danish youth cohort Vestliv.


This prospective study used data from questionnaires in 2004 and 2007 and register data in 2004 and 2010. The study population consisted of 3,054 persons born in 1989. Information on dropout was dichotomised into those who had completed a secondary education/were still attending one and those who had dropped out/had never attended a secondary education. Logistic regression analyses were used to investigate associations between parental socioeconomic position and dropout at age 21, taking into account effects of social relations at age 15 and 18.


A large proportion of young people were having problems with social relations at age 15 and 18. In general, social relations were strongly related to not completing a secondary education, especially among girls. For instance, 18-year-old girls finding family conflicts difficult to handle had a 2.6-fold increased risk of not completing a secondary education. Young people from low socioeconomic position families had approximately a 3-fold higher risk of not completing a secondary education compared to young people from high position families, and the estimates did not change greatly after adjustment for social relations with family or friends. Poor relations with teachers and classmates at age 18 explained a substantial part of the association between income and dropout among both girls and boys.


The study confirmed a social gradient in completion of secondary education. Despite the fact that poor social relations at age 15 and 18 were related to dropout at age 21, social relations with family and friends only explained a minor part of the socioeconomic differences in dropout.
However, poor social relations with teachers and classmates at age 18 explain a substantial part of the socioeconomic difference in dropout from secondary education.
Additional file 1: Description of data: Odds ratios for poor relations with parents, friends, teachers, and classmates at ages 15 and 18 by household income or highest education in the household (high vs. low) at age 15, all together and by gender, n = 3,054. (PDF 19 kb)
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