Exposure to violence, teacher support, and school delay amongst adolescents in South Africa

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Many adolescents in South Africa are exposed to multiple types of violence, socio-economic disadvantage, and low-quality education: all risk factors for educational outcomes including school delay (grade enrolment below that which is age-appropriate). Supportive teacher–student relationships are known to be associated with improved academic outcomes in high-income contexts.


To investigate whether the academic and emotional support provided by teachers can protect against school delay for adolescents exposed to multiple types of violence and socio-economic disadvantage in South Africa.


High-risk sample of 503 adolescents aged 10–18 exposed to multiple types of violence and socio-economic disadvantage at home, in school, and in their communities.


Multilevel aggregated structural equation modelling was applied to pre/post-RCT data. This investigated whether associations between adolescent exposure to violence and school delay could be lessened by having teachers who were academically and/or emotionally supportive.


More frequent exposure to ‘poly-violence’ and receiving more emotional support from teachers were independently associated with greater school delay. On the contrary, higher academic support from teachers was associated with lower school delay. Neither academic nor emotional teacher support was found to moderate the relationship between more frequent exposure to ‘poly-violence’ and an increased risk of adolescent school delay.


Adolescents' academic support from teachers is low in poorly resourced school contexts in South Africa. School-based secondary prevention programmes assisting teachers with more training and academic support in deprived contexts have potential to reduce the impact of violence and socio-economic disadvantage on adolescents' school delay.

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