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Information about school refusal behavior

School refusal behavior refers to a child-motivated refusal to attend school and/or difficulty remaining in classes for an entire day.  The problem includes youths with lengthy absences from school, youths who skip classes during the day, youths who are chronically late to school, youths who show misbehaviors in the morning in an attempt to miss school, and youths who may attend school but do so with great dread and distress.  Many youths demonstrate some aspect of school refusal behavior, making it one of the most common childhood behavior problems.  In addition, extended school refusal behavior can lead to serious short-term and long-term consequences if left unaddressed.  These consequences include academic problems, social alienation, family conflict and stress, school dropout, delinquency, and occupational and marital problems in adulthood.

Common symptoms of school refusal behavior include anxiety, depression, withdrawal, fatigue, crying, and physical complaints such as stomachaches and headaches.  More disruptive symptoms may include tantrums, dawdling, noncompliance, arguing, refusal to move, running away from school or home, and aggression.  Many children and adolescents with school refusal behavior show a wide range of constantly changing behaviors.  In addition, many youths refuse school for one or more of the following reasons: (1) to avoid school-related situations that cause substantial distress, (2) to escape painful social and/or evaluative school-related situations, (3) to pursue attention from significant others, and (4) to pursue tangible rewards outside of school.

A resource for parents of children with school refusal behavior is: 

Kearney, C.A. (2007).  Getting your child to say “yes” to school: A guide for parents of youth with school refusal behavior.  New York: Oxford University Press. (http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Psychology/PractitionerClientGuides/?view=usa&ci=9780195306309)

A resource for school officials who address children with school refusal behavior is: 

Kearney, C.A. (2008).  Helping school refusing children and their parents: A guide for school-based professionals.  New York: Oxford University Press. (http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Psychology/PractitionerClientGuides/view=usa&ci=9780195320244)

Resources for clinicians who address children with school refusal behavior include: 

Kearney, C.A., & Albano, A.M. (2007).  When children refuse school: A cognitive-behavioral therapy approach/Parent workbook (2nd ed.).  New York: Oxford University Press. (http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Psychology/PractitionerClientGuides/?view=usa&ci=9780195308297)

Kearney, C.A., & Albano, A.M. (2007).  When children refuse school: A cognitive-behavioral therapy approach/Therapist’s guide (2nd ed.).  New York: Oxford University Press. (http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Psychology/PractitionerClientGuides/?view=usa&ci=9780195308303)