The predictors of the intention to leave school early among a representative sample of Irish second-level students


School of Psychology, F208, Arts Building, Belfield, UCD, Dublin 4, Ireland. E-mail:


Early school-leaving exerts substantial costs on the individual and society. The literature indicates that quitting school early is predicted by an enmeshed group of indicators including academic and behavioural difficulties in school, deprived economic background and disengagement with the educational process. The attitudes and background of a representative sample of 1311 Irish second-level students were assessed. Data were gathered on intention to leave school early, elements of the Theory of Planned Behaviour towards school completion, students’ academic attainment, ability to ‘discount-delay’ (defer gratification), along with socio-demographic data. Analysis indicated that positive attitudes about the potential of the Leaving Certificate and parents and teachers perceived to be strongly pro-school completion are key to the intention to stay on. Performing well academically was a contributing factor, as was ability to discount-delay. Economic deprivation and gender did not exert a direct influence on intention, but were moderately associated with its antecedents.