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Only half of adolescents feel engaged in school, with almost a quarter being actively disengaged. Engagement drops as students age because older students report feeling less cared for by adults and see less value in their work. Many of the students experiencing disengagement are those who exhibit high-risk and troubling behaviors. When considering the emotional or psychological aspects of engagement, which are routinely associated with high-risk behaviors, a student must somehow conclude that, at a minimum, at least one specific person at their school truly cares about them. Be it a teacher, coach, administrator, or counselor, when this caring individual expresses respect, concern, and trust in the student, these actions often contribute to a student’s belief that another person sees intrinsic value in them as a human being. In this chapter, we underscore the association between student engagement and high-risk behaviors in adolescence. Although all aspects of student engagement are essential to youth’s full development, the salience of student engagement when considering troubling and high-risk behaviors in schools warrants educators’ attention. We summarize research in this area and provide an overview of system-level interventions and strategies to build bonding and connectedness, specifically for those students who engage in high-risk behaviors.



Publication Date





Cham, Switzerland


high-risk behaviors, at-risk, student engagement, equity, mental health


Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Psychology | Elementary and Middle and Secondary Education Administration | Other Education | Secondary Education | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of a chapter published in Amy L. Reschly and Sandra L. Christenson (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Student Engagement.



Using Positive Student Engagement to Create Opportunities for Students with Troubling and High-Risk Behaviors