The Importance of School Attendance: Findings From the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development on the Life-Course Effects of Truancy

Publication Title

Crime and Delinquency

Document Type


Department or Program


Publication Date



adult adjustment, crime, delinquency, problem drinking, truancy


School dropout has been extensively studied in the literature as a correlate of negative life outcomes. A precursor to school dropout is truancy, the unexcused or illegitimate student absence from school. Few studies have examined the relationship between truancy and involvement in crime and adjustment more generally over the life-course. This study extends previous work by exploring whether truancy at age 12 to 14 is related to later life outcomes such as crime, aggression, and adjustment using data from the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development. Results indicate that truancy has long-lasting associations with negative life outcomes, especially for non-violent crime and problem drinking. Importantly, these findings hold for certain outcomes controlling for a comprehensive host of environmental and individual childhood risk factors.