School connectedness reflects students’ belief that peers and adults in the school support, value, and care about their individual well-being as well as their academic progress. It is an important protective factor that promotes the health and well-being of students. Students who feel more connected to school are:
- Less likely to engage in risky behaviors (violence, sexual health, and substance use).1,2
- More likely to engage in positive health behaviors (physical activity and healthy eating).2,3
- More likely to have higher grades and test scores, have better school attendance, and graduate high school.4,5
- Less likely to have emotional distress and thoughts of suicide among adolescents.1,6-8
A recent study showed that school connectedness during adolescence may have long-lasting protective effects across a range of adult health outcomes including emotional distress, suicidal ideation, physical violence victimization and perpetration, multiple sex partners, STI diagnosis, prescription drug misuse, and other illicit drug use.1
Schools can refer to the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model, CDC’s framework for school health, to promote school connectedness. Within this framework, schools can use the following ways:
- Provide physical activity opportunities (e.g., physical education, recess, classroom physical activity) to give students time to practice skills, such as resolving conflicts, respecting others, cooperating, helping others, and being a role model. All of these skills help enhance school connectedness.
- Encourage school gardening projects, teacher-students lunchtime, and other opportunities to help improve social skills and build positive relationships, which are indicators of school connectedness.
- Help students manage their chronic health conditions (e.g., asthma, diabetes, food allergies) can help them feel more connected at school.
- Provide professional development and support for school staff to help them meet the diverse emotional and social needs of their students.
CDC identified four school connectedness interventions that led to declines in negative health behaviors and experiences among students.
- Family/community mentoring programs
- Service-learning opportunities
- Student-led clubs to provide safe spaces
- Professional development for educators on classroom management
- Steiner RJ, Sheremenko G, Lesesne C, Dittus PJ, Sieving RE, Ethier KA. Adolescent connectedness and adult health outcomes. Pediatrics. 2019;144(1):e20183766. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-3766
- Weatherson KA, O’Neill M, Lau EY, Qian W, Leatherdale ST, Faulkner GEJ. The protective effects of school connectedness on substance use and physical activity. J Adolesc Health.2018;63(6):724–731. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.07.002
- Neely E, Walton M, Stephens C. Building school connectedness through shared lunches. Health Educ. 2015;115(6):554–569. doi:10.1108/HE-08-2014-0085
- Niehaus K, Rudasill KM, Rakes CR. A longitudinal study of school connectedness and academic outcomes across sixth grade. J Sch Psychol. 2012;50(4):443–460. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2012.03.002
- Niehaus K, Irvin MJ, Rogelberg S. School connectedness and valuing as predictors of high school completion and postsecondary attendance among Latino youth. Contemp Educ Psychol. 2016;44-45:54–67. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2016.02.003
- Kim J, Walsh E, Pike K, Thompson EA. Cyberbullying and victimization and youth suicide risk: The buffering effects of school connectedness. J Sch Nurs. 2020;36(4):251–257. doi:10.1177/1059840518824395
- Langille DB, Asbridge M, Cragg A, Rasic D. Associations of school connectedness with adolescent suicidality: Gender differences and the role of risk of depression. Can J Psychiatry. 2015;60(6):258–267. doi:10.1177/070674371506000604
- Hertz MF, Kilmer G, Verlenden J, et al. Adolescent mental health, connectedness, and mode of school instruction during COVID-19. J Adolesc Health. 2022;70(1):57–63. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2021.10.021
- Michael SL, Li J, Sliwa S, Cornett K, Hertz M. Association Between Adolescent Self-Reported Physical Activity Behaviors and Feeling Close to People at School During the COVID-19 Pandemic. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2023;0(0). doi:10.1177/15598276231157324