Why Did They Leave School? A Self Determination Theory Perspective into Narratives of Finnish Early School Leavers

Merja Tellervo Pikkarainen, Juha T Hakala, Virpi-Liisa Kykyri


The present study aims to provide insights into the experiences of early school leavers within the Finnish context. We conducted a narrative inquiry among eleven early school leavers who were in prison when they were interviewed. Self Determination Theory (SDT), more specifically the concept of frustration of the three basic psychological needs of competence, relatedness and autonomy, and the tendency of people to move towards more supporting environments, was used as an interpretative tool, along with contextual information. We identified three pathways out of school, differing in the locus of need thwarting circumstances and the availability of access to transfer into a more satisfying environment. Furthermore, the experienced threat of safety was a shared element in the narrative accounts. Additionally, the findings add information about experienced indifference in the case of the participants, which is a new element in theorising the continuum of perceived need satisfaction within the terms of SDT.


early school-leaving; Self Determination Theory; need frustration; safety; indifference.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17583/ijep.2021.5988

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