An exploration of teachers’ attributions for the causes of emotionally based school avoidance

Devine, Emma (2021) An exploration of teachers’ attributions for the causes of emotionally based school avoidance. DAppEdPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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School attendance issues are well-researched and acknowledged internationally as an area of concern for schools (Gren-Landell, 2021). Poor school attendance is associated with negative academic, social, and mental health outcomes (Ingul, Havik, & Heyne, 2019). Emotionally based school avoidance (EBSA) is a form of school attendance difficulty, wherein young people experience emotional distress related to school attendance which can result in prolonged absences (West Sussex Educational Psychology Service, 2018).

Research with teachers indicates they perceive home- and pupil-related issues as more important in causing EBSA than school-related issues which is in contrast to perceptions of parents and young people (Dannow, Esbjørn, & Risom, 2020; GrenLandell, Ekerfelt Allvin, Bradley, Andersson, & Andersson, 2015). How teachers perceive and attribute the causes of pupil behaviour impacts upon their behaviour to support pupils (Soodak & Podell, 1994). The present study aimed to explore the attributions made by teachers for EBSA in young people aged between 11 and 16 years.


This study employed a non-experimental fixed design, utilising a survey strategy to explore attributions. The first stage of the research involved creating a survey measure, through the content analysis of interviews with school staff (n = 6), parents (n = 2), and young people (n = 2). The final survey was distributed online to teachers within the Local Authority (LA) and more widely through social media. The final sample included for analysis was n = 201 teachers.


Data were analysed through factor analysis, resulting in the extraction of a five-factor model. The attributional pattern of teachers for the causes of EBSA was nuanced, highlighting the perceived interplay of issues across systems that could increase the risk of EBSA. Teachers attributed a high level of importance to peer-related and homerelated factors in causing EBSA. The least importance was attributed to school environmental factors. This indicated somewhat of a self protective bias in attributions, which aligns with findings of previous attributional studies with teachers.


Though there are limitations to this study that must be considered, results highlight implications for schools in developing an understanding of the role of school-related factors in EBSA, within which there is a potential role for educational psychologists (EPs) as facilitators. Implications for future research are also discussed, including the utility of further exploring and comparing the attributions of different populations such as wider school personnel, parents, and young people.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DAppEdPsy)
Supervisors: Hounslow, Russell
Keywords: EBSA, school attendance, truancy, secondary school students
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1050 Educational psychology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary education. High schools
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Psychology
Item ID: 66070
Depositing User: Devine, Emma
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2023 09:38
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2023 09:38

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