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White, Tiffany N.
The influence of perceived social support from parents, classmates, and teachers on early adolescents' mental health
h [electronic resource] /
by Tiffany N. White.
[Tampa, Fla] :
b University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 149 pages.
Thesis (Ed.S.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: The present study examined the relationships among perceived social support, mental health, and achievement in early adolescents, via analysis of an archival data set consisting of 390 middle school students. Specifically of interest was how various sources of social support (i.e., parent, classmate, and teacher) independently and uniquely predicted pathology (i.e., internalizing and externalizing symptoms) and wellness (i.e., life satisfaction) in youth. This study also examined the role of gender in the relationship between social support and mental health outcomes in order to delineate the specific types of support most salient to boys versus girls. Finally, this study explored the protective nature of high student academic achievement in the relationship between social support and mental health in order to determine if academic achievement moderated the relationship between social support and mental health. Results indicated that social support from all sources was inversely associated with both internalizing and externalizing problems, and associated in a positive manner with life satisfaction and achievement. Social support was a significant predictor of all mental health outcomes, with social support and life satisfaction evidencing the strongest relationship. The strength and magnitude of the associations between perceived support from various sources and student mental health were consistent across gender groups, evidencing no moderating effect. Academic achievement moderated the direction and strength of the relationships between externalizing behavior and (a) classmate support, and (b) parent support, respectively. Implications for school psychologists and directions for future research are discussed.
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Advisor: Shannon M. Suldo, Ph.D.
x Psychological and Social Foundations
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
The Influence of Perceived Social Support From Parents, Classmates, and Teachers on Early Adolescents Mental Health by Tiffany N. White A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Education Specialist Department of Psychological and Social Foundations College of Education University of South Florida Major Professor: Shannon M. Suldo, Ph.D. Kathy Bradley-Klug, Ph.D. Linda Raffaele-Mendez, Ph.D. Date of Approval: Friday, November 6, 2009 Keywords: social support, psychopathology, life satisfaction, academic achievement, early adolescence Copyright 2009, Tiffany N. White
Acknowledgements I would like to thank all people who have helped a nd inspired me during my thesis research. I especially want to thank my Major Professor, Dr. Shannon Suldo, for her guidance during my research and study at th e University of South Florida. Her energy and enthusiasm for research seems to mo tivate all of her students, including me. Additionally, she was always accessible, willi ng to work extra hours, and consistently returned feedback in a speedy manner to help me complete my research project. As a result, research life became smooth and reward ing for me. I would also like to thank my committee members, Drs. Kathy BradleyKlug and Linda Raffaele-Mendez for their invaluable assistance and in sight provided throughout my project. Their guidance and direction was integral in helping me to delinea te the more practical applications of this project. I would also like to give a special thanks to Dr. John Ferron for his statistical brilliance, without which I might still be spe nding late nights in th e library attempting to probe for moderator effects. Finally, my d eepest gratitude goes to my family for their love and support throughout my life. My pursuit of this e ndeavor would not have been possible without their gu idance and reassurance.
i Table of Contents List of Tables vi List of Figures vii Abstract viii Chapter 1: Introduction 1 Psychological Wellness: An Adapted View of Mental Health 1 Life Satisfaction 1 Social Support 2 Rationale 4 Purpose of the Current Study 5 Research Questions 6 Significance of the Current Study 7 Chapter 2: Review of Relevant Literature 8 Social Support 9 Importance to Adolescent Development 11 Parent/Family Support 13 Peer/Classmate Support 15 Teacher Support 16 Summary 18 Mental Health 20
ii Psychopathology 21 Wellness 24 Indicators of Wellness 25 Mental Health and Student Achievement 27 Psychopathology and Student Achievement 27 Wellness and Student Achievement 29 Summary 30 Associations among Social Support and Mental Health 31 Parent/Family Support and Mental Health 31 Peer/Classmate Support and Mental Health 34 Teacher Support and Mental Health 37 Comparative Importance of Sources of Social Support 40 Social Support and Mental Health: Examining the Role of Academic Achievement 42 Conclusions 45 Summary of the Literature 45 Limitations of Extant Literatu re 46 Purpose of the Current Study 47 Chapter 3: Method 50 Participants 50 Participant Selection 51 Measures 52 Socio-Demographic Variables 52
iii Child and Adolescent Social Suppo rt Scale 53 Students Life Satisfaction Scale 55 Youth Self Report Form of the Child Behavior Checklist 56 Academic Achievement 57 Procedure 58 Student Data Collection 58 Analyses 61 Descriptive Analyses 61 Correlational Analyses 61 Regression Analyses 61 Group Differences 62 Moderator Tests 63 Chapter 4: Results 64 Data Screening 64 Scale Reliability 65 Descriptive Analyses 65 Correlational Analyses 66 Regression Analyses 68 Internalizing and Externalizing Behavior 69 Life Satisfaction 70 Moderator Tests 71 Gender 71
iv Achievement 74 Classmate Support 78 Parent Support 79 Chapter 5: Discussion 81 Associations between Social Support, Mental Health, and Academic Achievement 81 Mental Health Outcomes Predicted by Sources of Social Support 85 Internalizing Problems 85 Externalizing Problems 85 Life satisfaction 87 Moderators of Social Support and Ment al Health 89 Gender 89 Achievement 90 Implications for School Psychologists 93 Prevention 94 Intervention 95 Limitations 98 Future Directions 100 References 104 Appendices 138 Appendix A: Demographics Form 139 Appendix B: Child and Adolescent Soci al Support Scale 141 Appendix C: Students Life Satisfaction Scale 143
v Appendix D: Student Assent Form 144 Appendix E: Parent Consent Form 147 About the Author End Page
vi List of Tables Table 1. Descriptive Sta tistics of Student Particip ants 52 Table 2. Means, Standard Deviations, Ranges, Skew, 66 and Kurtosis of Variables Table 3. Intercorrelations be tween Predictor and Outcome Variables 68 Table 4. Summary of Simultaneous Regression Analyses for Predicting Mental Health Outcomes 69 Table 5. Student Mental Health Predicted by Support Source, Gender, and Interactions 73 Table 6. Student Mental Health Predicted by Support Source, Achievement and Interactions 76
vii List of Figures Figure 1 Predicted externalizing be havior from classmate support for low-, average-, and high-achievi ng students 79 Figure 2 Predicted ex ternalizing behavior from parent support for low-, average-, and high-achievi ng students 80
viii The Influence of Perceived Social Support from Parents, Classmates, and Teachers on Early Adolescents Mental Health Tiffany White ABSTRACT The present study examined the relations hips among perceived social support, mental health, and achievement in early adolesce nts, via analysis of an archival data set consisting of 390 middle school students. Spec ifically of interest was how various sources of social support (i.e., parent, classmat e, and teacher) indepe ndently and uniquely predicted pathology (i.e., inte rnalizing and extern alizing symptoms) and wellness (i.e., life satisfaction) in youth. This study also examined the role of gender in the relationship between social support and mental health outcomes in orde r to delineate the specific types of support most salient to boys versus girls. Finally, this study explored the protective nature of high student academic achievement in the relationship between social support and mental health in order to dete rmine if academic achievement moderated the relationship between social s upport and mental health. Results indicated that social support from all sources was inversely a ssociated with both internalizing and externalizing problems, and associated in a positive manner with life satisfaction and achievement. Social support was a significant predictor of all mental health outcomes, with social support and life satisfaction evidencing th e strongest re lationship. The strength and magnitude of the associati ons between perceived support from various sources and student mental health were consistent across gender groups, evidencing no
ix moderating effect. Academic achievement m oderated the direction and strength of the relationships between externalizing behavior and (a) classmate support, and (b) parent support, respectively. Implications for school psychologists and directions for future research are discussed.
Chapter 1 Introduction Mental health problems have been shown to have a significant negative impact and impairment on a youths quality of life and academic success, as well as continue into adulthood (Knopf, Park, & Mulye, 2008). Thus, adolescence presents as a critical time for the prevention of mental disorders, as unique biological (e.g., hormonal effects associated with puberty), social (e.g., sense of belonging and supportive peer relationships), and school-rela ted (e.g., achievement orienta tion and school transitioning) factors may influence mental health. In additi on to identifying factors related to reduced mental health symptomatology, understanding the correlates of optimal functioning is also critical throughout adolescence. Psychological Wellness: An Adapt ed View of Mental Health Psychological health is often marked simply by the absence of disease/disorder or negative outcomes such as behavior or academ ic problems (Diener, 2000). There is an implicit assumption among psychologists th at individuals who do not present with psychopathologic symptoms or disorders are ment ally healthy. However, research within the past decade has indicated that the abse nce of pathology does not equate to optimal mental health (Greenspoon & Saklofske, 2001; Suldo & Shaffer, 2008). Rather, the construct of mental health is compri sed of two components: well-being and psychopathology (i.e., distress; Wilkinson & Walford, 1998). Thus, optimal wellness not only includes the absence of negative indicators of mental health (i.e.,
1 psychopathology) but also includes the presen ce of positive indicators of mental health (i.e., life satisfaction). Since the late 1950s, several conceptual frameworks have addressed positive mental health. These frameworks include a range of emphases, such as cultural definitions of mental health, subjective se nse of well-being, and capacity for coping and resiliency in the face of stressors (World Health Organization, 2004). In the adolescent health field, similar efforts have expanded the definition of health from one that examines negative behaviors and outcomes to one that incorporates positive youth development and functioning (Bernat & Resnick, 2006; The Forum for Youth Investment, 2004). Such efforts have been in line with the Pos itive Psychology Movement, which recognizes the saliency of identifying strengths and helping adolescents to thrive and form positive connections with others, in conjunction with reducing and/ or eliminating problematic behaviors and risk factors. Frameworks for conceptualizing positive adolescent development include domains such as indi vidual assets (e.g., social and emotional competency, self-efficacy, positive identity, life satisfaction, and pro-social involvement) and environmental factors that foster positive youth development (e.g., family, school and community connections; Kasser, 2005; Pa rk, 2004; Larson, 2000). However, there is a relative paucity of informati on about specific indicators of wellness and how they relate to adolescent mental health (Bernat & Resnick, 2006). Life Satisfaction One positive indicator of well-being that has received attention within the literature relative to beneficial outcomes for youth is life satisfaction (LS). Life
2 satisfaction is one of the most well-esta blished indicators of general wellness and, moreover, positive functioning (Suldo, Riley, & Shaffer, 2006). Studies have evidenced positive associations between LS and adolescent achievement (Kirkcaldy, Furnham, & Siefen, 2004; Suldo, Shaffer, & Riley, 2008). More over, high levels of life satisfaction have been associated with social-emotiona l outcomes such as lower rates of suicide attempts (Kim & Kim, 2008), decreased s ubstance use (Fergusson & Boden, 2008), and greater parent-peer attachme nt (Ma & Huebner, 2008). Such findings demonstrate the positive implications high levels of life satisfaction have for adolescent development and success. Social Support Positive psychology has been informed by decades of research examining positive emotions, characteristics, values, and institutions that support and enhance individuals (Beaver, 2008, p. 129). Social support is one such enhancing agent that has received considerable attention in child and adolescent literature. Research has described social support as an expansive constr uct that describes the physical and emotional comfort given to individuals by their family friends, and other signif icant persons in their lives (Israel & Schurman, 1990). Research has consistently shown th at low levels of social support are related to a variety of poor psychological (Garnefski & Diekstra, 1996), social (Demaray & Elliott, 2001), academic (Richman, Rosenfeld, & Bowen, 1998), and health-related (F rey & Rothlisberger, 1996) outcomes for adolescents. Conversely, high levels of support can mitigate the negative impact of psychosocial stress on mental (DeGarmo, Patras, & Eap, 2008; Tr eharne, Lyons, & Booth, 2007), behavioral
3 (Crockenburg, 1987), and academic outcomes (H amre & Pianta, 2006). For instance, teenagers who receive more social support ar e less likely to exhibi t angry and hostile behaviors throughout adolescence and have a decreased probability of exhibiting such behaviors in adulthood (Crockenburg, 1987). Social support has also been shown to relate positively to students satisfaction with their schooling experience (DeSantis King, Huebner, Suldo, & Valois, 2006). Research consistently indi cates that youth derive social support from a number of sources (e.g., parent/family, peers/classmates, and teachers), and social support from each source is associated with beneficial ou tcomes (Malecki & Demaray, 2003). In early childhood, parent support seems to be most salient to developmen t. Perceptions of supportive family relationships have been lin ked with decreases in internalizing (e.g., Rosario, Salzinger, Feldman, & Ng-Mak, 2008) and externalizing behaviors (e.g., Carlton et al., 2006), as well as increas es in indicators of wellness such as life satisfaction and subjective-well being (i.e., happiness; Edward s & Lopez, 2006; Suldo & Huebner, 2006). However, as children transition into middl e and high school, perceptions of peer and teacher support tend to gain relative impor tance over parental support. For example, supportive peer relations have been associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety (Crockett et al., 2007; La Greca & Lopez, 1998) less peer victimization (Hodges, Boivin, Vitaro, & Bukowski, 1999), and lower drop-out rates for inner-city adolescents (Lagana, 2004) suggesting that close peer support may serve a protective mental health function for adolescents. Peer support has also been shown to correlate inversely with other indicators of internalizing psychopathol ogy in adolescents an d co-occur with
4 psychological wellness among adolescents (e.g., Suldo & Schaffer, 2008). Likewise, researchers have begun to illustrate how positive perceptions of teacher support can promote mental wellness, such that greater perceptions of te acher support are associated with higher levels of life satisfaction (Suldo et al., 2008) and subjective well-being (Suldo, Friedrich, White, Farmer, Minch et al., 2009). Moreover, supportive teacherstudent relationships help main tain students interests in ac ademic and social pursuits, which in turn lead to better grades and mo re positive peer relationships (Wentzel, 1998). Notably, research has shown that the actual receipt of social support is not necessary for achieving beneficial outcomes; the mere perception that one has received support is often adequate. For instance, one study found that the per ception that social support is available seems to mitigate the negative impact of a stressful event and to hasten recovery even if social support is not actually verified or us ed (Costello, Pickens, & Fenton, 2001). In other words, simply having the belief that one is supported, even if the adolescent does not use this support, holds positive implications for successful development. Rationale As suggested by Miller and colleagues (2008) school psychologists concerned with the broad development of children a nd youth, including the development of both mental and physical health, should be cognizan t of research for e nhancing wellness and health promotion in all student s (p. 5). Social support is on e construct that represents a potential area to focus prevention and interv ention efforts. However, relatively little attention has been afforded to middle-school aged adolescents re garding how social
5 support networks can mitigate negative mental health outcomes, and dually promote optimal wellness. Specifically, it is unknown which source(s) of support are most salient to middle school students mental well-being. Al so, there has been a paucity of research that relates social support to pos itive indicators of mental heal th, such as LS despite calls (e.g., Maddux, Snyder, & Lopez, 2004; Nationa l Association of School Psychologists [NASP], 2006) to include positive indicators of wellness within the construct of psychological health (rather than simply the absence of psychopathology). Continued research in this area might further illustrate how optimal wellness in youth develops. Purpose of the Current Study Given the limitations of the current litera ture, the aim of this study was to add to the literature base by providing informati on regarding the relationships among social support, mental health, and academic achievement in early adoles cents. The specific sources of support (i.e., parent, teacher, or classmate) most predictive of mental health outcomes (i.e., internalizing and externaliz ing psychopathology) were determined and discussed. Moreover, as an answer to the ca ll for increased research regarding positive indicators of wellness, this study also incl uded an examination of life satisfaction as a mental health outcome. This study also addr essed gender-related differences among these aforementioned relationships to determine if particular sources of support were more or less salient for one gender versus the other. Finally, given the str ong association between academic achievement and mental health in children, the role of achievement as a moderator in the link between social support and mental he alth outcomes was explored. Based on the research-supporte d negative associations between psychopathology and
6 achievement (e.g., Bardone Moffitt, Caspi, Dickson, & Silva, 1996; Benner, Nelson, Allor, Mooney, & Dai 2008; Bonifacci, Candria, & Contento, 2008) and the protective nature of academic achievement in adoles cents (Carlton et al., 2006; Muratori & Filippo, 1997), it was hypothesized that high academic ac hievement would serve as a protective factor in the link betw een social support and mental health outcomes, while low academic achievement would serve as a risk factor for students to experience psychological dysfunction when faced with low levels of social support. Research Questions The specific research questions addressed by the analysis of an archival data set consisting of survey data and school record s from 390 middle school students were as follows: 1. What are the associations between soci al support, mental health, and academic achievement among early adolescents? 2. Which sources of support (parent, teacher, peer/classmate) are most predictive of the following mental health outcomes: a. Internalizing psychopathology b. Externalizing psychopathology c. Life satisfaction? 3. Are there gender differences in these rela tionships, such that certain sources of support are more or less sa lient to girls or boys? 4. Does academic achievement serve as a risk or protective factor in the link between social support and mental health, such that high achievement buffers
7 students from the negative effects of low support or low achievement exacerbates the negative effects of low support? Significance of the Current Study The current study will contri bute to the lite rature by further delineating the complex relationships among social support a nd mental health. Speci fically, this study will expand upon extant literature which has primarily focused on how social support contributes to psychopathology by broadening the scope of ment al health to include an indicator of wellness (i .e., life satisfaction). To this researchers knowledge, there is only one published study which assesses middle sc hool students percep tions of parent, teacher, and peer social support and the unique contributions of each to their global life satisfaction (see Danielson, Samdal, Hetland, & Wold, 2009). Furthermore, the present study will be the first examination of achievement as a potential moderator in the relationship between social suppo rt and mental health. An un derstanding of associations between perceived social support, mental health, and achievement will provide a more complete picture of psychological functioning and its buffers. Such information can be used to help inform prevention and interven tion efforts regarding wellness promotion in the schools.
8 Chapter 2 Review of Relevant Literature This chapter reviews relevant literature regarding the relative importance of social support, mental health, and achievement to adolescent development. The review begins by defining social support and examini ng how specific sources of support (i.e., parent/family, peer/classmate, and teacher) di fferentially lead to positive outcomes for youth. Subsequently, an examination of the tw o distinguishable, ye t highly correlated components of mental health (i.e., pathology a nd wellness) is provide d as the literature increasingly supports this comprehensive vi ew of mental health. Specifically, ensuing sections discuss how the mere absence of pat hology is not, in itself, sufficient to account for the optimal functioning in youth. Rather, in dicators of thriving (e .g., life satisfaction) are important variables to consider when promoting optimal social, behavioral, and psychological well-being in youth. Next, the differential associations among adolescent mental health outcomes and each specific sour ce of social support is considered, followed by a brief review of the comparative importance of each source of support to adolescent development. Finally, a rationale for the ex amination of achievement as a potential moderating variable in the relationship betw een social support and mental health is discussed, followed by concluding comments and the purpose of the current study.
9 Social Support Social support is an expansive cons truct that describes the physical and emotional comfort given to individuals by their family friends, and other signif icant persons in their lives (Israel & Schurman, 1990). Social support is purported to have a beneficial effect on health and well-being of people, and while it is a term that do es not have a widely agreedupon definition in the adolescent health and development literature, it can be generally defined as the degree to which a persons basic needs are gratified through interaction with others (Thoits, 1982, p. 145). The social support construct encompasses a variety of specific characterist ics of an individuals social world that might promote well-being and/or increase re sistance to health problems (Cohen, Gottlieb, & Underwood, 2000). An important aspect of support is that a message or communicative experience does not constitute support unle ss the receiver views it as such, a phenomenon the research has identifi ed as perceived social support (Haber, Cohen, Lucas, & Baltes, 2007). More broadly, social support refers to ones social relationships as buffering lifes stressors, a nd thus promoting ones general health and well-being (Barrera & Ainlay, 1983). Theoretical investigations of social support indicate that several aspects (e.g., multiple sources and multiple types) must be taken into account when examining this vast construct (Winemiller, Mitchell, Sutcliff, & Cline, 1993). With regards to sources of support, research has primarily focused on fa mily and social relationships among adults (Procidano & Heller, 1983). More recently, adolescents have begun to receive increased attention in the literature, and thus both te achers and classmates have also received
10 attention as additional sour ces of support (Malecki & Demaray, 2003). To date, the literature has supported the exis tence of four main types of social support: emotional, instrumental/tangible, informational, and pe rsonal feedback/appraisal (e.g., Tardy, 1988; Tetzloff & Barrera, 1987; Wills, Blechman, & McNamara, 1996). Emotional support is what people most often think of when they talk about social support; it is characterized by perceptions of care and warmth. Instrumental (i.e., tangible) support refers to concrete helping behaviors (Tardy, 1988, p. 349) such as giving advice, loaning money, or sacrificing ones time. Finally, informati onal support involves t he accessibility of advice and/or guidance that is helpful in handling one's personal problems (Vaux, Burda, & Stewart, 1986, p. 161), while appraisa l support alludes to non-critical personal feedback which the recipient values as honest and helpful. While the four aforementioned types of social support are included in the mo st widely used concep tualization of social support with adolescents (see Malecki & Demaray, 2003), othe r conceptualizations of social support include additional types, such as social companionship or esteem. Social companionship (i.e., involvement) pertains to time spent with anothe r person in enjoyable activities. This type of support has been considered to be a multifunctional (Suurmeijer, Van Sonderen, & Krol, 2005, p. 192) activity, as pleasurable interact ions with others simultaneously provide people with both emoti onal and instrumental support. In lieu of emotional support, some researchers have identified a dimension known as esteem support (warmth and compliments intended to boost one's self-esteem) (Keefe & Berndt, 1996). Despite the availability of conceptual frameworks for examining types of social
11 support, the majority of studies in the literature measure gl obal social support and do not examine specific types of s upport (Malecki & Demaray). Importance of Social Support to Adolescent Development Adolescence is widely considered the tim e in life when youth attain the skills and attributes necessary to become a productive, self-sufficient adult. Nearly all cultures recognize a phase in life when society acknow ledges these emerging capacities of young people. While most of the worlds adoles cents make it through the period without considerable difficulty, even those adol escents who have no significant personal problems or acute health-care needs expe rience normative stressors and needs for guidance and support associated with maki ng the transition from childhood to adulthood. As the subsequent review of literature will show, social support is crucial to successful adolescent development and adaptation. With regards to children and adolesce nts, the literature has supported a link between social support and improved outcomes. For instance, social support contributes to attachment security by buffering the infant-mother attachment relationship from stressors (Crockenburg, 1981). Further, teenag ers who receive more social support are less likely to exhibit angr y and hostile behaviors thr oughout adolescence and have a decreased probability of exhibiting such be haviors in adulthood (Crockenburg, 1987). In regards to the academic climate, social support has also been shown to relate positively to students satisfaction with their schoo ling experience (DeSantis King et al., 2006). Interestingly, the actual recei pt of social support may be secondary to its perception. For instance, one study found that the perception that social supp ort is available seems to
12 mitigate the negative impact of a stressful even t and to hasten recovery even if social support is not actually verified or used (Cos tello et al., 2001). In other words, simply having the belief that one is supported or has a range of individuals who support him/her, even if the adolescent does not use this suppor t, holds positive implications for successful development. In studies examining adults, social support processes are strongly linked to mental and physical health (House, Landis, & Umberson, 1988; LaRocco, House, & French, 1980). As previously alluded to, the ability of social support mechanisms to moderate or buffer the impact of psychosocial stress on physical and mental health has been well documented throughout the lite rature (Cobb, 1976; Caplan, 1979; DeGarmo et al., 2008; Treharne et al., 2007). Although this link has been recognized for some time, limited progress has been made in understanding the more specific mechanisms linking specific aspects of social support (i.e., received social support versus perceived social support or type of support) and overall (i.e., physical and mental) health in adolescents (Sarason, Sarason, & Gurung, 2001). The stress and coping perspective has received significant attention in the social support literature and has been the impetus behind most efforts to manipulate social support and subsequently, improve mental health (Lakey & Lutz, 1996). Stress or stressor refers to any environmental, so cial, or internal de mand which requires the individual to readjust his/her usual behavior patterns (Hol mes & Rahe, 1967). The stress and coping perspective generally purports that stressors motivate efforts to cope with behavioral demands and with the emotional reactions that are usually evoked by them
13 (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). As stressors accumula te, an individuals ability to cope with such demands can be overtaxed, depleting both their psychological and physiological resources, and in turn increasing the probability that psychological distress or disorder will occur (Thoits, 1995). However, family ties, friendships and supportive teacherstudent relationships have the potential to serve as psychological barriers against many mental health problems such as anxi ety and depression (Cohen & Willis, 1985). Moreover, social support also has the ability to promote positive mental health via increasing ones sense of belonging, purpose, and self-worth (Turner-Musa & Lipscomb, 2007). The following section provides a review of how specific sources of support for adolescents lead to positive outcomes. Parent/family support. Numerous studies and review articles published during the past 50 years provide evidence of the important role that parental support plays in the lives of children and adolescents (e.g., Lamborn & Felbab, 2003; Peterson & Rollins, 1987). Parental support refers to gestures or acts of caring, acceptance, and assistance that are expressed by a parent toward a child (Shaw, Krause, Chatters, Connell, & Ingersoll-Dayton, 2004, p. 4). Support from pare nts received during childhood is thought to have significant and lasting health impli cations because the parent child relationship serves as the context within which important health-enhancing soci al and psychological development takes place. For instance, if parents provide children with a caring and supportive environment, then children may ge neralize this learning experience. As they age, they may seek out environments in which social support is read ily available (Caspi & Elder, 1988). Conversely, if parents are ne ither helpful nor available, then children
14 may develop lifelong patterns of withdrawal from and avoidance of others (Bowlby, 1980). In other words, the parent child rela tionship may influence the evolving structure and quality of ones network of social relations and support ov er the life course (Antonucci & Akiyama, 1987). Accordingly, problems in the development of this important social resource ma y compromise individual hea lth and well-being (Cohen et al., 2000). Children whose parents provide am ple support report fewer psychological and physical symptoms during their childhood than do children who recei ve less parental support (Wickrama, Lorenz, & Conger, 1997). Research has also demonstrated the importance of parents in the academic success of children across a range of ages, populations and settings. Findings from parental monitoring research suggest that parent-child communication and support are important predictors of academic achievement (Verner, 2007). Regarding the socialization process in minority families (i.e., African American and Hispanic), support (maternal and/or paternal) is related to indicator s of pro-social adjustment in adolescents, such as academic achievement (Bean, Bush, McKenry, & W ilson, 2003; Kim, Brody, & Murry, 2003), selfesteem (Bean et al.), and lower levels of depression symptoms (Mounts, 2004; Zimmerman, Ramirez-Valles, Zapert, & Ma ton, 2000). These findings extend the notion that social support is importa nt in the normal development of children and adolescents from diverse ethnic backgrounds. In additi on, aspects of parent-c hild relationships, specifically parental provision of emotional support, are am ong the strongest predictors of subjective well-being (SWB), the scie ntific term for happiness, during youth (Huebner, Suldo, McKnight, & Smith, 2004). Supportive parenting is related to more
15 positive reports of life satisfaction among youth (Petito & Cummins, 2000; Suldo & Huebner, 2004). Peer/classmate support For young children, the family (parents, in particular) is typically their most important and influent ial source of support (H all & Brassard, 2008). As individuals move from early chil dhood into later childhood and adolescence, however, they spend increasingly more time outside of the home interacting and developing relationships with others, including classmates and/or peers. Research has demonstrated the beneficial effects that pe er support (i.e., the provision and reception of help and support characterized by empathy, mu tual respect, shared responsibility, and agreement of what is considered to be he lpful; Mead, Hilton, & Curtis, 2001) can have on the outcomes of children and adolescents. Fo r instance, children who begin kindergarten with familiar classmates are more likely to develop stable, positive attitudes toward school than children with fewer such acqua intances (Ladd & Price, 1987). Similarly, children who have a larger number of friends a nd higher levels of peer acceptance in their kindergarten classrooms develop more favorable school attitudes over the course of the school year (Ladd, 1990). Gains in school liking have also be en linked to the perceived supportiveness of childrens classroom peer re lationships; in a study of early friendship quality, researchers found that children who characterized th eir friendships as offering higher levels of aid tended to like school better as the school year progressed (Ladd, Kochenderfer, & Coleman, 1996). Peers begin to take on a more central role in the lives of adolescents, and supportive peer networks appear to promot e identity achievement (Hamer & Bruch,
16 1994; Ontai-Grzebik & Raffaelli, 2000). Supporti ve peer relations have also been associated with lower rates of depression a nd anxiety (Crockett et al., 2007; La Greca & Lopez, 1998), less peer victimization (Hodges et al., 1999), and lower drop-out rates for inner-city adolescents (Lag ana, 2004) suggesting that cl ose peer support may serve a protective mental health function for adolescents. Conversely, unsupportive peer relationships co-occur with negative outcomes, such as increased symptoms of depression (Lui, 2002; Newman, Newman, Gr iffen, OConnor, & Spas, 2007), conflict (Laursen, 1993), and suicidal ideation (Sun & Hui, 2007). Within a school context, the transition to high school can be especially difficult as adolescents shift from being the oldest and mo st physically mature in their school, to the youngest and least physically developed among their peers. Peer groups can often be disrupted and reorganized as students move from middle schools to larger high schools (Newman et al., 2007). Peer support during this transition is critical to the academic success of adolescents as studies have shown a positive link between supportive peer relationships and academic achievement (i .e., higher grades; Chen, 2005; Gonzales, Cauce, Friedman, & Mason, 1996; Somers, Owens, & Piliawsky, 2008). Moreover, one recent study identified lack of peer support as one barrier that was negatively associated with inner-city adolescents' psychological preparedness to transition into high school (Turner, 2007). Such findings emphasize th e importance of positive and supportive peer relationships during secondary school. Teacher support Researchers have defined teacher support as the degree to which students feel supported, respected, and valued by their teacher (Doll, Zucker, &
17 Brehm, 2004, p. 6). The literature has cons istently shown positive, supportive teacherstudent relationships to be fundamental to fostering desirable socio-emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes (Hamre & Pianta, 2006). For instance, positive teacher-student relationships serve as a resource for children at risk for school failure, while conflicting, negative relationships ex acerbate that risk (Ladd & Burgess, 2001). Further, support from teachers may be partic ularly salient for children who display early academic or behavioral problems. One study examined a group of kindergarteners who were designated as at risk for special edu cation or retention on the basis of low schoolentry screenings (Pianta, Steingberg, & Rollins, 1995). Those who were ultimately retained or referred for services (between kindergarten and second grade) were compared with those who, despite being high risk, were promoted or not referred. The at-risk children who were not referred or promoted had significantly more positive studentteacher relationships in comparison to their hi gh-risk peers who were either retained or referred. Similarly, highly aggressive third and fourth graders who are able to elicit positive support from their teachers are more likely than other aggressive students to be well liked by their peers (Hughes, Cavell, & Wilson, 2001). Such effects of supportive teacher-student relationships also remain evident among students from diverse cultures and minority populations, as evidenced in a study among a group of aggressive African American and Hispanic students in which s upportive student-teacher relationships were associated with declines in aggressive behavior between the second and third grade (Meehan, Hughes, & Cavell, 2003).
18 The need for positive relationships with teachers is not only a necessary component of elementary-aged students healthy development and academic success; such relationships are also beneficial for middle and high school students, as well. For instance, one recent study found that support from teachers is indirectly associated with substance use in middle school students (Suldo, Mihalis, Powell, & French, 2008). Specifically, teacher support was one of tw o variables that significantly predicted affiliation with deviant peers, which, in turn, predicted substance use. Moreover, middle school teachers who convey emotional warmth and acceptance, as well as make themselves available regularly for persona l communication with students, foster the relational processes character istic of support (Hamre & Pi anta, 2006). These supportive relationships help maintain students interests in academic and social pursuits, which in turn lead to better grades and more positive peer relationships (Wentzel, 1998). Likewise, students relationships with adults in the high school setting are among the most important predictors of healthy adjustment Specifically, data from the Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health indicate that high school students reporting greater connectedness to teachers displa y lower rates of emotional distress, suicidal ideation, suicidal behavior, violence, substance a buse, and early sexual activity (Paulson & Everall, 2003; Resnick et al., 1997; Zimmer-Gembeck, 2007). Summary Social support can be broadly understood as an individuals perceptions of general support or specific suppor tive behaviors (available or enacted upon) from people in their social network, which enhances their functioning and may buffer them from
19 adverse outcomes (Malecki & Demaray, 2002, p. 2). A popular model of social support proposed by Tardy (1985) describes several el ements of social support. First, social support comes from people in one's social network and for students, these potential resources may include parents, teachers, a nd classmates. Additionally, social support can take many forms such as emotional or car ing support (communicati ng trust or love), instrumental support (providing time or re sources), informational support (providing needed information), and appraisal support (p roviding feedback). Social support can be given to someone or received, and can be percei ved to be available and/or actually used. A growing literature high lights the importance of so cial support for physical health (see Reblin & Uchino, 2008 for a review ), life satisfaction (N ativg, Albretsken, & Qvarnstrom, 2003; Suldo & Heubner, 2006), and positive adjustment (DeBaryshe, Yuen, & Stern, 2001). Human beings ha ve a fundamental need to fo rm and maintain positive, enduring interpersonal relati onships. Research has also consistently shown that perceiving low levels of social support can be related to a variety of poor psychological (Compas, Slavin, Wagner, & Vannatta, 1986; Garnefski & Diekstra, 1996), social (Bender & Losel, 1997; Demaray & Elliott, 2001), academic (Levitt, Guacci-Franco, & Levitt, 1994; Richman, Rosenfeld, & Bowen, 1998), and health (Frey & Rothlisberger, 1996) outcomes for adolescents. Conversely, high levels of support can mitigate the negative impact of psychosoc ial stress on physical and ment al health (Cassel, 1976; Cobb, 1976; Caplan, 1979; DeGarmo et al., 2008; Treharne et al., 2007) Given the links between social support and mental health, the next se ction of this literature review will
20 define mental health using both positive a nd negative indicators, and illustrate how mental health is relevant to adolescents academic achievement. Mental Health For all individuals, mental, physical, and soci al health are vital parts of life that are closely interwoven and deeply interd ependent. As an understanding of these relationships grows, it continues to become apparent that mental health is crucial to the overall welfare of individuals (Taylo r & Brown, 1999). Researchers delineate the construct of mental health (i.e., psyc hological well-being) from two differing perspectives (Keyes, 1998; Keyes 2002). Th e long-standing clinical tradition (or medical/deficit model) operationalizes we ll-being through measures of psychopathology (e.g., depression, anxiety, or substance abus e) whereas the psychological tradition operationalizes well-being in te rms of ones subjective evalua tion of life satisfaction and presence of positive affect (Keyes, 1998; Keyes, 2002, p. 209). Thus, the deficit model views well-being as the absen ce of negative feelings and conditions (i.e., pathology), while the positive psychological model involves the presence of more positive than negative perceived self attributes. Recent research has stipulated that a complete understanding of mental health includes co mponents of both suffering and happiness, as well as their interact ion (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005, p. 410). The following sections provide an overview of how mental health, both pathology and wellness, have been conceptualized in th e literature, while al so describing common indicators of each.
21 Psychopathology Mental health professionals have traditio nally viewed mental health within the context of mental illness/disorder. Psychiat ric illnesses have been historically been characterized as diseases, with a stro ng emphasis on internal pathology. As such, psychological and psychiatric treatments have often focused on reducing symptoms, preventing relapse, minimizing rehospitalization, and eliminating maladaptive behaviors. In other words, psychotherapy as defined now is where you go to talk about your troubles and your weaknesses (Seligman et al., 2005, p. 420). However, as Seligman and colleagues (2005) have indicated, these trad itional deficit-focused approaches have underemphasized clients strengths and th e development and integration of positive characteristics (e.g., fostering a positive self-image based on clients specific achievements, altruism, resiliency, and respons ibilities) in helpi ng clients deal more successfully with their psychological problems. Yet, a persons well-being is still often implied or judged simply by the absence of di sease/disorder (deficit model) or negative outcomes such as behavior or academic problems (Diener, 2000). Essentially, when determining mental health/well-being, most assessment procedures used by mental health practi tioners are primarily focused on examining psychopathology, or negative indicators of mental health. Among such assessments focused on negative indicators is the Dia gnostic and Statistica l Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM -IV-TR), the most widely used diagnostic manual in clinical practice today. The purpose of the DSM-IV-TR is to provide clear descriptions of diagnostic categ ories in order to enable clin icians and investigators to
22 diagnose, communicate about, study, and treat people with various mental disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, p. xxxvii). Although classifying a mental disorder can provide useful information for tr eatment, this type of diagnosis is quite limited. Specifically, by only diagnosing and trea ting mental illness, practitioners ignore opportunities to assess an individuals s ubjective perceptions about the positive characteristics of his/her life and self. Similarly, American schools Exceptional Student Educati on (ESE) programs utilize a deficit-based diagnostic model when making eligibility decisions about students. Qualifying students with special mental health needs in the school environment (for ESE services), as outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Education Act (2004), requires that students exhibit menta l retardation, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance, orthopedic im pairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific lear ning disabilities (The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, 2005, p. 9). This impairment-based conceptualization excludes the diverse mental health promotion needs of the vast majority of students. Behavioral researchers have also devel oped and refined an alternative type of classification system for orga nizing behavioral, social, and emotional problems in youth; this method is commonly known as the behavior al dimensions approach. This approach utilizes statistical procedures to identify be havioral clusters, or highly interrcorrelated behaviors (Merrell, 2009; p. 50). Within this paradigm, researchers have sorted general types of behavioral and emotional problem s along two broad dimensionsinternalizing
23 (overcontrolled) and extern alizing (undercontrolled) be haviors/disorders. More specifically, internalizing problems include a broad domain of symptoms related to depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal. Children and adoles cents with these types of disorders typically deal with problems intern ally, rather than acting them out in the environment. Conversely, externalizing probl em behaviors are characterized by behaviors directed outward, typically toward other peopl e or objects in the environment. Examples include, but are not limited to, disobe dience, aggression, and delinquency. Neither of the most popular aforementi oned diagnostic systems (i.e., DSM or ESE) includes accurate indicators of an individuals overall mental well-being. Previous research incorporating assessments of both positive and negative i ndicators of mental health has identified a dual f actor model of mental health (c.f., Greenspoon & Saklofske, 2001). In this model, positive indicators of we llness are coupled with traditional negative indicators of psychopathology to comprehensively measure mental health. A recent study examined the existence and utility of a dual-factor model in early adolescence and found the existence of this model to be supported through the iden tification of four mental health groups: Vulnerable Youth (low on both positive and negative indicators of mental health, specifically internalizing and externaliz ing behavior problems), Symptomatic but Content Youth (high on both positive and negative indicators of mental health), Troubled Youth (low on positive indicators and high on negative indicators of mental health), and youth with Complete Ment al Health (high on pos itive indicators and low on negative indicators of mental health; Suldo & Shaffer, 2008). The means of the four groups differed significantly in term s of academic, physical health, and social
24 functioning. Specifically, results supported the importance of high positive indicators of mental health (i.e., subjective well-being [S WB] or happiness) to the optimal functioning of youth, as students with Complete Mental Health exhibited better academic, physical, and social outcomes than their Vulnerable peer s, who were also withou t clinical levels of psychopathology (i.e., internalizing and exte rnalizing symptoms) but maintained low levels of SWB. The results of this st udy emphasize the importanc e of conceptualizing mental health in a more holistic manner rather than just using indi ces of impairment. The next section focuses on what has been termed the Positive Psychology Movement and its views on the importance of utilizing positive indicators of well-being. Wellness For the past fifty years, psychology has primarily approached mental health from a deficit model and been chiefly concerned only with mental illness. Though the field has appreciably advanced both the methods a nd effectiveness of treatment options for psychopathology in children, this has not come without a cost. According to Seligman (2002), simply relieving the st ates that make life miserable has made building the states that make life worth living less of a priority (p. 9). In effect, this almost exclusive attention to pathology has neglected (1) the idea of a fulfilled child with in the context of a thriving community, and (2) th e importance of creating en vironments that promote mental wellness in all children. The positive psychology movement moves psychology from a preoccupation with repairing the worst things in life to al so building the best qualities in life. Positive psychology has been defined as the study of positive emotion, positive character, and
25 positive institutions (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 6). Positive psychologists have enhanced the fields understanding of how, why, and under what conditions positive emotions and positive character promote wellness, and have helped to delineate the institutions that enable adolescents to thrive. Over the past few decades, a growing interest has developed in healthy development or wellness. This topic is of particular importanc e during the critical adolescent years when emotional and social development can change drastically as one navigates transitions. Compared to the substantial body of literature on indicators of psychopathology, little research has examined positive indicators of well-being in adolescents. However, resear ch in this area is becoming more prevalent due to the recognition that happiness and wellness do in fact exist separately from disease (e.g., Deiner, 2000; Deiner, Lucas, & Oshi, 2002; Huebner, Gilman, & Suldo, 2007; Keyes, 2003; Keyes, 2006). Adopting an expanded model of mental health allows practitioners to recognize and work with more diverse groups of individuals. Indicators of wellness Diener (1984) suggested th at a conceptualization of wellness must include at least three components: (1) It should be s ubjective, reflecting a concern for how the individual views himor herself, (2) it should include positive indices of an individuals sentiments toward life as opposed to nega tive ones, and (3) it should be global to encompass all areas of an individuals life. Positive indicators of mental health include variables such as positive affect, life sati sfaction (or perceived quality of life; LS and PQOL, respectively) self-efficacy, hope, and other factors related to ones mental wellness (Lopez & Snyder, 2003).
26 Life satisfaction is one of the most well-e stablished indicators of general wellness and, moreover, positive functioning (Suldo et al., 2006). While LS is sometimes misconceptualized as a synonym for happine ss (or SWB), it is act ually one of three components that comprise the construct of SW B. Specifically, SWB can be defined as a broad category of phenomena that includes peoples emotional responses, domain satisfactions, and global judgmen ts of life satisfaction (Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999, p. 277). In essence, SWB is an individu als present evaluation of his or her happiness, and is comprised of three compone nts: positive affect (pleasant feelings and moods), negative affect (bothersome emotions like guilt and anger), and life satisfaction (a cognitive, global evaluation made when considering contentment with life in general or within the context of specific life domains such as family, friends, and self). Since LS is the more stable component of SWB, it is the indicator most fr equently included in studies of youths SWB (Suldo et al.). A growing body of literature (reviewed in th e next section) supports that students mental health, either defined in terms of psychopathology or wellness, is linked to their academic achievement. Academic success is on e of the most crucial developmental tasks during the adolescent years, important becau se successful academic performance during high school relates to attainment of furthe r educational and empl oyment goals during adulthood (e.g., Ou, Mersky, Reynolds, & K ohler, 2007; Fuligni & Hardway, 2004). Because of the salience of academic achie vement during youth, the next section will review how student achievement is associated with positive and ne gative indicators of mental health.
27 Mental Health and Student Achievement As aforementioned, research supports that me ntal health is inextricably related to student achievement (e.g., Coulliard, Garne tt, Hutchins, Fawcett, & Maycock, 2006; Feinstein & Peck, 2008; Ghosh, 2007; Pare tte & Peterson-Karlan, 2007; Witcher, Alexander, Onwuebuzie, Collins, & Witche r, 2007). While this link has been well established among primary-aged youth (Coulliard et al.; Pa rette & Peterson-Karlan, 2007; Puskar & Benardo, 2007) and college stude nts (Dempsey & Keen, 2008; Zhang, Cao, & Zhang, 2007; Witcher et al.), the literature within this area is relatively limited among an adolescent population. Yet, studies that have examined how mental health (both pathology and wellness) is related to adol escent achievement have found a general relationship between the two constructs. As discussed below, negative indicators of mental health tend to be associated with lo wer levels of student achievement. Conversely, positive indicators of mental health tend to be associated with greater gains in adolescent achievement, a finding which holds significant implications for cons idering whether or not to implement specific programs for pr omoting wellness with in the schools. Psychopathology and student achievement. Throughout the adolescent literature, externalizing psychopathology has been consistently found to have detrimental effects on student achievement. For example, antisocia l behavior in adolescents (e.g., conduct disorder) undermines academic achievement throughout the school years (Bardone et al., 1996; Benner et al., 2008; Chen, Rubin, & Li 1997; Hawkins et al., 2003; Masten & Coatsworth, 1995; Risi, Gerhar dstein, & Kistner, 2003). There is a growing literature base linking internalizing symptoms to acad emic achievement. Anxiety, depression, and
28 general internalizing symptoms show signs of reciprocal linkages ove r time with school adjustment and achievement (Bonifacc et al., 2008; Herman, Lambert, Reinke, & Ialongo, 2008; Masten et al., 2005; Undheim & Sund, 2008). The evidence linking internalizing problems with academic achieve ment suggests that obj ective and perceived academic failures are generally related to increases in internalizing symptoms and, conversely, that achievement gains predict decreases in depressive symptoms, although the evidence is somewhat inconsistent w ith respect to gender (Chen, Rubin, & Li, 1995; Masten et al.; Maughan, Rowe, Loeber, & St outhamer-Loeber, 2003) Specifically, Chen and colleagues (1995) found that poor academic achievement was associated with future development of depression in Chinese youth, regardless of gender. Similarly, there were no gender differences in Masten and co lleagues (2005) study which reported a relationship between academic achievement and American adolescents subsequent development of internalizing problems. However, results fr om another study showed that low reading achievement is associated with an increased risk for depressed mood in boys only (Maughan et al.). Further, for adol escents who meet crite ria for psychiatric diagnoses of anxiety disorders and depressi on (i.e., those above di agnostic thresholds), academic problems such as increased dropout rates (Bardone et al., 1996), lower academic achievement (Bernstein & Borcha rdt. 1991; Lane, Barton-Arwood, Neslon, & Wehby, 2008; Roeser, Eccles & Sameroff, 2000; Wang, Zhang, & Leung, 2005), and increased rates of retention (Robles-Pia, Defrance, & Cox, 2008) have been noted both currently and in the future.
29 Wellness and student achievement Calls in the literature have served to shift mental health professionals preoccupation with remediation to a focus on prevention and resiliency. In alignment with this perspectiv e, studies have begun to explore how positive indicators of mental health are associated with success within the school environment. A recent study on SWB in adolescents found that students with high SWB exhibited higher scores on state reading assessments and had better school attendance (Suldo & Shaffer, 2008). Moreover, mean achievement scores fo r students who had high levels of SWB and low levels of psychopathology significantly ex ceeded the scores of students with high levels of psychopathology. Studies examining the link between LS and adolescent achievement have been rather limited and inc onclusive (Suldo et al., 2006). One recent study examined a set of school-related vari ables (e.g., academic beliefs, attachment to school, and academic achievement) and their implications for high school students LS (Suldo et al., 2008). Results s howed a significant, albeit sm all and indirect, link between academic achievement (i.e., GPA) and global LS Studies that have been conducted on a national scale have also show n a positive relationship betw een LS and achievement (e.g., Kirkcaldy et al., 2004). Notably, some studies involving adolescent populations from within an individual country have not always supported such a link (i.e., Bradley & Corwyn, 2004; Huebner, 1991a; Huebner & Alderman, 1993). As such, it has been hypothesized that culture may play a moderating role in this relationship (Suldo et al., 2006). More research still need s to be conducted to provide more definitive conclusions regarding the conditions under which LS is linked to student achievement.
30 Summary Mental health is a construct that ha s been predominantly concerned with the absence of psychopathology in individuals. However, researchers are beginning to recognize the importance of mental wellness to the successful development and thriving of adolescents (Heubner, 1991; Suldo et al ., 2006; Suldo & Shaffer, 2008). Thus, mental health can no longer be conceptualized as simply the absence of psychopathology; its conceptualization must be expanded to include the presence of positive indicators (e.g., LS and SWB), as the previously reviewed literature delineates the positive outcomes these constructs hold for adolescents. One such positive outcome is the researchsupported link between mental health and acad emic achievement in adolescents. More specifically, studies have highlighted how psychopathology (a s defined by internalizing and externalizing symptoms) negatively aff ects student achievement (e.g., Herman et al., 2008) and conversely, linked indicators of we llness with better ach ievement (e.g., Suldo & Shaffer, 2008; Suldo et al., 2008). In alignment with the traditional focus on psychopathology in regards to mental health, there is a dearth of research that concentrates on academic correlates of wellness and achievement in adolescence. This is an area that lends itself to consid erable inquiry and clarification. Conversely, social support is a construct that has gained substantial attention in the literature. The next section will provide a review of studies that have supported the association between social suppo rt and mental health in a dolescents. In particular, the review will examine the distinct relations hips among specific sources of social support
31 (i.e., parent/family, peer, and teacher support) and conclude with an examination of the perceived comparative importance of these sources of support. Associations among Social Support and Mental Health As aforementioned, social support is critical to successful adolescent development. Supportive and fulfilling relationships with family, friends, and even teachers are fundamental to leading a meaningful and happy life. Such relationships benefit adolescents through be tter health outcomes, improved coping mechanisms, and increased life satisfaction (Myers, 2000). Mo reover, studies have shown supportive social relationships impact mental he alth through their influence on an individuals stress level, depression, anxiety, and psyc hological well-being (Kawachi & Berkman, 2005). The subsequent sections will review how each s ource of social support (i.e., parent/family, friend/peer, and teacher) specifi cally contributes to the me ntal health outcomes of adolescents. Parent/Family Support and Mental Health Research indicates that family support se rves as a strong resiliency factor against poor mental health outcomes (e.g., McCubbin, McCubbin, Thompson, & Thompson 1995). For example, one recent study found ove rwhelming evidence that family support promotes psychological well-being (based on a fi ve-point Likert scal e ranging from least well-adjusted to most well-adjusted) and reduces the risk for internalizing and externalizing symtomatology in Hawaiia n adolescents (Carlton et al., 2006). Additionally, supportive family behaviors have been associated with decreased levels of stress (Youngstrom, Weist, Albus, 2003) and suicidality (Cheng & Chan, 2007) in youth.
32 Conversely, unsupportive parent-child relati onships can negatively impact the psychological well-being of youth. For example, low levels of parent al support have been associated with increased internalizing symp toms of anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; Rosario et al., 2008). Moreover, a recent study of Latino youth examined the independent and interact ive effects of parent support and conflict within a triadic familial context (i.e., mo ther-father-youth; Crean, 2008). Results showed that higher levels of unsupportive behavior (i.e., conflict) with either mother or father were associated with higher levels of both internalizing and externalizing symptomatology ( r = .25-.47, p < .001). In terestingly, parental support from the opposite parent helped to buffer the impact of th e non-supportive parent-c hild relationship and lead to decreases in internalizing problems. Notably, parental support only served as a protective factor agai nst the future development of in ternalizing symptoms among boys, indicating that unsupportive pa rental relationships may be especially damaging for adolescent females. While numerous studies have linked lack of parental support to increased levels of depression (e.g., Christie-Mizelle, Pryor, & Grossman, 2008; Gaylord-Harden, Ragsdale, Mandara, Richards, & Peterson, 2007; McCarty, Vander Stoep, Kuo, & McCauley, 2006), a recent longitudinal study has further examined this link and suggests that the relationship among depressive symptoms and parent social support is interactive and dynamic across the transition from adolescence into young adulthood (Needham, 2008). Data were collected on approximately 11,000 youth in three waves (mean age 15.28 at Wave 1 and 21.65 at Wave 3). Results indicate d that parental suppor t during adolescence
33 has an inverse relationship with initial symp toms of depression for both girls and boys. Notably, adolescent girls with low levels of parental support tended to exhibit significantly higher levels of depressive symptomatology than their male counterparts, which is consistent with results found by Crean (2008). Additionally, adolescents who began the study with higher levels of depr essive symptomatology reported less parental support during young adulthood, providing supp ort for a recipro cal, interactive relationship. The results from this study show how the negativ e ramifications of a lack of parental support during adolescence can carry over into young adulthood. Within the past decade, researchers have begun to explore how social support is related to wellness in youth. Research has supported a significant relationship between students SWB and parental support; specific ally, students who report the highest SWB concomitantly report more perceived support from significant adults, such as parents (Nevin, Carr, Shevlin, & Dooley, 2006; Suldo & Huebner, 2006). Additionally, social support has been instrumental for youth who have experienced stressful life events such as teenage pregnancy (Stevenson, Mat on, & Teti, 1999), immigration (Liebkind & Jasinskaja-Lahti, 2000; Jasinskaja-Lahti, Lieb kind, Jaakkola, & Reut er, 2006), and threat of war (Ronen & Seeman, 2007). Specifically, re sults from these studies indicated that high levels of perceived support are associat ed with various indicators of psychological well-being (i.e., high levels of mastery, life satisfaction, and self-c ontrol), even in the face of significant stressor s (Suldo, 2009). Moreover, a r ecent study by Edwards and Lopez (2006) showed that family support was associated with higher life satisfaction in Mexican-American youth. Such findings are consistent with previous literature using
34 diverse cultural groups (e.g., Jasinskaja-Lahti et al.) and demonstrate the importance of supportive family relationships across diverse ethnic backgrounds. The critical importance of warm, supportiv e parent-child relationships to optimal wellness in youth is illustrate d in the examination of parenting style in relation to adolescents wellness, part icularly in regards to au thoritative parenting (Suldo & Huebner, 2004). Authoritative parenting is comprised of three dimensions: support/involvement, supervision, and psyc hological autonomy promotion. While all three dimensions are positively associated with life satisfaction in adolescents, parental social support has been shown to be th e strongest correlate Notably, one study by Bradley and Corwyn (2004) found that parental support failed to pred ict life satisfaction in a cross-cultural sample of European-, African-, Mexican-, Chinese-, and DominicanAmerican youth (although support did s how a small bivariate correlation [ r = .13, p < .05] with life satisfaction). This finding contradicts the conclusions from all other available research. Peer/Classmate Support and Mental Health During adolescence, peers take on an increasing influence (Brown, 2004). While support from parents provides guidance and nur turance, peer relationships satisfy the need for affiliation and prepare adolescents for meaningful relationships with those of their own age and with adults as well (Meeus, Oosterwegel, & Vollebergh, 2002). Research on unsupportive peer relations documents the incr eased risk for a range of adolescent problem behaviors and depre ssed mood (Dumont & Provost, 1999; WenzGross et al, 1997). Interestingly, Dumont a nd Provost (1999) revealed group differences
35 in indices of depressive symptoms and levels of daily stress among well-adjusted, resilient, and vulnerable adolescents. Well-adjusted adoles cents reported higher peer support than those in a vulnerable group who scored low on indices on both depressive symptoms and level of daily stress. Such fi ndings may suggest that adolescents sense of relatedness and support within th eir peer group is critical fo r social-emotional adjustment (see Eccleston, Wastell, Cr ombez, & Jordan, 2008). Peer support has also been shown to inve rsely correlate with other indicators of internalizing psychopathology in adolescents. For instance, researchers of a study examining perceived social support among bullies, victims, and bully-victims indicated that uninvolved youth (i.e., youth not invol ved in either bullying or victimization) reported the most peer social support and also the leas t symptoms of anxiety and depression (Holt & Espelage, 2007). An additional link between peer support and decreased levels of anxiety has also been supported for African-American adolescents (Ginsburg, 2002). Furthermore, peer support has been s hown to promote psychological well-being among adolescents (McCreary, Slavin & Berr y, 1996; Rodriguez, Mira, Myers, Morris, & Cardoza, 2003). For example, one study show ed that peer support was also positively associated with well-being (i.e., decreases in indicators/levels of psychopathology) in adolescent mothers (Kissman & Shapiro, 1990). Peer support has also been linked to positive indicators of well-being in youth (i.e., SWB). More specifically, results from Suldo and Shaffers (2008) study evidenced a relationship between SWB, low levels of psychopathology, and social support from classm ates. In particular, students with high
36 levels of SWB and low levels of psychopathology (i.e., complete mental health) perceived better social support from peers a nd parents in comparison to vulnerable (low levels of psychopathology and SWB), sym ptomatic but content (high levels of psychopathology and SWB), and troubled (h igh levels of psychopathology and low levels of SWB) youth (p. 60). These findings ar e consistent with exta nt literature which has shown that students with the highest le vels of LS also report the most perceived peer/classmate support (Suldo & Huebner, 2006). Thus, not only do supportive peer relationships mitigate the probability of expe riencing negative mental health outcomes, but they co-occur with complete mental heal th (or optimal wellness) in youth (Suldo & Schaffer, 2008). The provision of peer support is especially salient during the transition from elementary school to middle school, as it can be critical in shaping adolescents psychological and behavioral adjustment. Fo r example, results from a study examining the changes in students perceptions of teacher and peer support throughout middle school indicated that perceptions of declining peer support were associated with declines in psychological and behavioral adjustment. Specifically, as students reported declines in peer support, there were corresponding in creases in depressive symptoms and externalizing behavior problems (Way, Reddy, & Rhodes, 2007). Furthermore, gender was found to be a predictor of initial peer support and depre ssive symptoms. In particular, girls exhibited lower levels of peer suppor t than boys, and dually presented with higher levels of depressive symptoms. Such fi ndings seem intuitive given the inverse relationship generally describe d by the literature between peer support and depressive
37 symtomatology (e.g., Chong, Huan, Yeo, & Ang, 2006; Dumont & Provost, 1999; Lui, 2002; Newman et al., 2007; Wenz-Gross et al, 1997). However, these findings are inconsistent with other resear ch studies which indicate that girls perceive more peer support in comparison to their male counterparts (e.g., Malecki & Elliott, 1999). A further examination of gender differe nces among peer support and related outcomes investigated the role of depression, self-esteem, problem solving, assertiveness, social support, and some socioeconomic fact ors on adolescent suicid al behavior (Eskin, Ertekin, & Dereboy, 1997). Althoug h prior research identifie d an inverse relationship between peer support and depression, girl s scored significantl y higher on scales measuring depression and suicidality, but also perceived more social support from friends in comparison to boys. Thus, although girls i ndicated they received a greater degree of peer support, they still maintained highe r levels of depressive symtomatology in comparison to their male counterparts. Such findings may indicate that perceived social support, though beneficial, may not be as st rong of a protective f actor as actual peer support received. Teacher Support and Mental Health Schools have more influence on the live s of young people than any other social institution (except the family) and provide a setting in which p eer networks develop, socialization occurs, and norms that govern behavior are developed and reinforced. Schools should have a vested interest in ad dressing the mental health needs of students because healthy children show higher achie vement and beneficial social-emotional
38 outcomes in comparison to children with me ntal health problems (Adelman & Taylor, 2000; Opie & Slater, 1988). Accordingly, teachers have been identif ied as an important source of social support for adolescents (e.g., Hamre & Pian ta, 2006; Hughes et al., 2001; Malecki & Demearay, 2003). While the literature provides support for positive teacher-student relationships and increases in academic (Felner, Aber, Pr imavera, & Cauce, 1985; Hamre & Pianta, 2006; Wentzel, 1998) and social -behavioral outcomes among adolescents (Hamre & Pianta, 2006; LaRusso, Romer, & Selam, 2008), there is a paucity of research that has examined teachers effect on adol escent psychological well-being. Studies that have examined the link between suppor tive teacher-student relationships and psychological functioning have shown inverse relationships with suicidal ideations and emotional distress (Paulson & Everall, 2003; Resnick et al., 1997). Colarassi and Eccles (2003) found that supportive teacher relationships had a significant negative effect on adolescent depression, while se lf-esteem was boosted as a result of teacher support. The findings from this study may suggest that perceived support from teachers potentially effects mental health outcomes via creating an increase in beliefs that are inconsistent with depression and low self-esteem, such as acceptance, connectedness, and the belief that others will help. Furthermore, perceived teacherstudent relationships were examined as a protective factor agai nst declines in emo tional functioning of youth across the middle school years (Reddy, Rhodes, & Mulhall, 2003). For all students, changes in perceptions of teacher support reliably pr edicted changes in psychologi cal adjustment. Specifically,
39 students who received increasing levels of teacher support evidenced corresponding increases in self-esteem and decreases in depression. These findings, in conjunction with the results from aforementioned studies, undersco re the critical role of teacher support in predicting adolescent well-being. Of interest, however, is that although the girls from this study perceived higher levels of teacher support in comparison to their male counterparts, there were no gender differences in levels of depression. Such a finding indicates that gender may not be a salient predictor of diffe rences in psychological outcomes, which is inconsistent with some previous research (i.e., Eskin et al., 1997; Way et al., 2007). Despite calls for a greater focus on positive indicators of mental health, there is less research examining how supportive te achers may promote mental wellness in adolescents. Recent studies have begun to expl ore such links and have found that students who perceive high levels of support from their teachers also report hi gher LS (Nativg et al., 2003; Suldo & Heubner, 2006). Moreover, supportive student-teacher relations are the aspect of school climate mo st strongly related to older a dolescents LS (Suldo et al., 2008). Notably, one recent study thoroughly exam ined the importance of teacher support on adolescents social-emotional wellness (Suldo et al., 2009). Specifically, this study sought to determine which type(s) of teach er support (i.e., emotional, appraisal, instrumental, or informational) contributed the most unique variance to students SWB. Findings from this study indicate that overa ll teacher social support accounts for 16% of the variance in students SWB.
40 Comparative Importance of Sources of Social Support As reviewed within the prev ious sections, research c onsistently indicates that youth derive social support from a number of sources, and social support from each source is associated with beneficial outc omes (Malecki & Demaray, 2003). Yet, current theory and research suggest that all social support is not the same. Two important influences on the effectiveness of support ar e the characteristics of the provider and the characteristics of the recipient (Anto nucci, 1983). For example, alternate support providers, such as parents and peers, differentially affect adolescent outcomes (Barone, Iscoe, Trickett, & Schmidd, 1998; Wentzel, 1998). The primary source of social support for yout h often varies as a function of age. In childhood, youth tend to seek support primarily from parents; but as they transition into adolescence, peer support becomes more salient (Furman & Buhrmester, 1992). For example, Canadian adolescents rated both peer and family support as one of the best help-seeking options for adolescents in divorcing families; however, peer support was rated above family support in terms of most he lpful (Ehrenburg, Stewart, Roche, Pringle, & Bush, 2006). Additionally, older adolescents typically report less support from all sources than younger adolescents (Malecki & Elliott, 1999). However, given that youth report that they receive differe nt social provisions (i.e., types of social support) from parents than from peers (Furman & Buhr mester, 1985), both sources of support are important for positive youth outcomes. Notably, some research suggests that cult ure and developmental level may play a role in the comparative influence of differe nt sources of social support. For instance,
41 while parent support has been linked to academ ic achievement in American adolescents (e.g., Wentzel, 1998), one study found an inverse relationship between supportive parentchild relationships and academic achievement in students from Hong Kong (Chen, 2008). As suggested by Chen (2008), such a counter intuitive finding may be attributed to parents tendency to increase support via academic monitoring (e.g., checking homework) and assistance (e.g., helping to complete assignments and projects) in response to their childs underachievement. Notably, te acher support significantly predicted high academic achievement in these students. The relative importance of teacher support has also been documented th roughout the literature in other adolescent populations. Yoon and Carcarmo (2007) f ound that teacher suppor t was a significant predictor of African-American middle school students overall school attachment, beyond the variance explained by parent support. Further, teacher support uniquely predicts school satisfaction in middle school students, beyond that of parents and peers (DeSantis King et al., 2006). Thus, while pa rent support seems to be mo re salient to elementaryaged students, the importance of supportive teac her-student relationshi ps appears to play a more critical role in the school-r elated outcomes of adolescents. In terms of recipient characteristics, rese arch has addressed gender differences in the amount and kind of support adolescents re ceive and who they receive it from. The literature base suggests that girls report more perceived social support than do boys from many sources in their lives (Furman, 1996; Malecki & Demaray, 2002; Malecki & Elliott, 1999). One potential hypothesis for this phenome non was that girls may have an inflated sense of the support they r eceive from others; however, research by Malecki and
42 Demaray (2003) showed there is no difference between boys and girls when examining support from teachers and parents, which may i ndicate true differences in the saliency of support sources among these two groups. Additionally, examinations of at-risk youth show that parental support is more strongl y correlated with high SWB in comparison to other peer and environmental factors (Lie bkind & Jasinskaja-Lahti, 2000; Stevenson et al., 1999). Such findings may indicate that perc eived support from parents is more salient than other support sources for vulnerable youth. Social Support and Mental Health: Examining the Role of Academic Achievement The importance of social support to adolescent social behavioral, and psychological functioning has been well documen ted within the literature. While higher perceptions of social support have been indicative of benefi cial psychological and schoolrelated outcomes for youth, some students rema in resilient against the development of psychological, school, or other behavi or problems in the face of unsupportive relationships (e.g., Rosario et al., 2008; Way et al., 2007). As given by Carlton and colleagues (2006), resiliency indicators describe the capacity for individuals to withstand adversity and maintain psychologica l health and well-being (p. 292). In line with the ambitions of the positive psychology movement, the primary goal of resiliencybased research has focused on delineating speci fic indictors (or sets of indicators) of wellness that protect agains t psychological impairment, rather than devoting sole attention to the reduction of psychopathological risk factors and symptoms. Of such indicators, academic achievement has been one variable shown to protect against adversity and lead to positive outcomes for youth (Carlton et al.).
43 Particularly, a recent study of adolescent Americans evidenced a relationship between family support, achievement, and mental health (Carlton et al., 2006). Specifically, Carlton and colleagues examin ed how individual (e.g., achievement and physical fitness), family (e.g., family support and parental expecta tions), and community (e.g., extracurricular activ ities and peer support) resilienc y variables predicted mental health outcomes (i.e., internalizing a nd externalizing symptomatology; p. 298). Regression analyses showed that family support and achievement accounted for a significant amount of variance in internalizing symptomatology ( R2 = .10 and .01, respectively, p < .01); those who perceive d higher levels of family support and maintained higher levels of achie vement had higher levels of well-being in regards to internalizing sy mptomatology. Similarly, family support and achievement were two resiliency variables that predicted decreased levels of externalizing symtomatology for youth ( R2= .03 and .06, respectively, p < .01). Interestingly, family support was the strongest resiliency variable regarding internalizing symptomatology, while achievement was evidenced to be more crucial to the prediction of externalizing symptoms. In sum, Carlton and collea gues concluded that family support and achievement are two variables that protect against psychiatri c symptomatology and promote wellness in youth. However, conclusions drawn from this study should be interpreted cautiously as the measures and t echniques utilized to evaluate well-being (i.e., low levels of internaliz ing and externalizing symtomat ology) were questionable, at best, as the instruments were not demonstrated to have adequate re liability and validity regarding measurement of these constructs. Mo reover, well-being was indicated by the
44 absence of psychopathological symptoms in youth, though recent research has noted this is not the most comprehensive indicator of well-being (Greenspoon & Saklofske, 2001; Keyes, 2006). In spite of the methodological fl aws apparent within the study, Carlton and colleagues have taken a critical first step in examining the interrelationships among social support, achievement, and mental health in adolescents. While the focus of preceding sections has centered on the direct relationships among social support, mental health, and achieve ment, there have also been studies that have evidenced relationships among these and ot her interrelated constructs. For instance, Utsey and colleagues (2006) found that the combined effects of social support and cognitive ability moderated the relationship be tween stress and quality of life in AfricanAmerican young adults. Specifically, high leve ls of cognitive ability and social support mitigated the negative effects of stress in relation to participants PQOL. In a study which examined the nature of the relationship between mental health and life events (i.e., occurrence of academic pressure and negativ e interpersonal relationships) in Chinese middle school students, social support served as a protectiv e factor for the development of internalizing disorders (i.e., anxiety and depression; Guo, Li, Wang, & Shen, 2006). Moreover, high academic achievement has been shown to protect against the development of depression in pre-adolescent children who experience high numbers of undesirable and uncontrolla ble life events (Mur atori & Filippo, 1997). For adolescents, there is increasing evidence for the importance of resilience in development (e.g., McCubbin et al., 1995; McC ubbin et al. 1998). In line with the movement from focusing on psychopathology and remediation to promotion of wellness
45 and prevention, an understanding of how th e adverse effects of unsupportive social relationships can be mitigated within the school setting is critical. Given the strong, positive association between academic achievement and favorable mental health outcomes (i.e., lower indicators of pathology a nd higher indicators of wellness; Benner et al., 2008; Suldo & Shaffer, 2008) and that prio r research has demonstrated the protective nature of academic achievement, future endeavors should examine the role achievement plays in the relationship between social support and psychological outcomes. Conclusions Summary of the Literature Adolescence is a time in which multiple transitions in development occur and affect ones psychological adjustment. Adolescents perceptio n of social support exerts significant influence on their psychological adjustment (e .g., Demaray & Malecki, 2002). Supportive relationships with othe rs (i.e., social support) have been conceptualized as a resource for promoting successful adaptation during adolescence. As reviewed above, social support holds signifi cant implications for the social, behavioral, and emotional functioning of adolescents. In particular, there is substantial empirical evidence to suggest that adolescents fam ily, peers, and teachers provid e important contexts to shape and foster beneficial outcomes for youth. Perceptions of supportive family relationshi ps have been linked with decreases in internalizing (e.g., Rosari et al., 2008) and externalizing behaviors (e.g., Carlton et al., 2006), but research suggests the negative effects of unsupportive relationships with parents may be especially detrimental for fe male adolescents (Crean, 2008). Almost all
46 research has supported a direct link between support from parents and indicators of wellness (i.e., SWB and LS) among youth (e.g., Edwards & Lopez, 2006; Suldo & Huebner, 2006; see Bradley & Corwyn, 2006 for an exception). Peer support has also been shown to inversely correlate with othe r indicators of internalizing psychopathology in adolescents and co-occur with psychol ogical wellness among adolescents (e.g., Suldo & Schaffer, 2008). Likewise, researchers have begun to illustrate how positive perceptions of teacher support can promote mental wellness (e.g., Suldo et al., 2008), such that greater perceptions of teacher suppor t are associated with higher levels of LS and SWB. Limitations of Extant Literature While extensive examinations among social support, mental health, and academic achievement have been conducted with young children and older adolescents, less attention has been afforded to a younger population of adolescents. The transition to middle school can be tumultuous for young adol escents and is linked to declines in psychological, academic, and emotional adjustme nt (Newman et al., 2007). It is critical that this age group be thoroughly examined in order to provide information on how to potentially mitigate these negative outcomes. Specifically, it is unknown which source(s) of support are most salient to middle sc hool students mental health. Such an understanding is needed so that school psyc hologists can make more informed decisions regarding where to focus prevention and intervention efforts. An additional limitation of the literature is reflected by th e paucity of research that rela tes social support to positive indicators of mental health, such as LS or SWB, despite calls (e.g., Maddux et al., 2004;
47 NASP, 2006) to include positive indicators of wellness within the construct of psychological health (rather than simply the absence of psychopathology). Increased research in this area might elucidate ways to foster optimal wellness in youth. Additionally, the literature ha s provided inconsistent resu lts in regards to how gender may influence the magnitude of the relationshi p between social support and mental health outcomes, and has neglected to examine how various sources of support may be more or less salient to boys versus girls. Additional re search on these issues would help to clarify the specific role that gender plays among these variables. Finally, it is unknown if social support is as crucial of a predictor among youth with high academic achievement, which may function as a protective factor. Purpose of the Current Study Given the limitations of the current lite rature, this study ai med to add to the literature base by providing information regarding the relationships among social support, mental health, and academic achievement in early adolescents (i.e., middle-school aged students)a population group which has been neglected in the li terature in comparison to children (i.e., elementary-a ged students) and older a dolescents (i.e., high school students). Specifically, bivariat e relationships among these thr ee constructs (i.e., social support, mental health, and achievement) were examined. Also, the specific sources of support (i.e., parent, teacher, or peer/classm ate) most predictive of mental health outcomes (i.e., internalizing and external izing psychopathology) were determined. Moreover, as an answer to the call for increas ed research regarding positive indicators of wellness, this study included an examinati on of life satisfaction as a mental health
48 outcome. This study also addressed potentia l gender-related differences among these aforementioned relationships to determine if (1 ) particular sources of support are more or less salient in one group vers us the other and (2) the magnitude of the relationship between social support and me ntal health outcomes is different based on gender. Although gender-specific research results have been relatively inconsistent regarding the magnitude of social support on mental heal th outcomes in youth, due to findings that have suggested the significant adverse eff ects of unsupportive relationships for girls (beyond that of boys; e.g., Crean, 2008), it was hypothesized that th e strength of the relationship between perceived support and psychopathology will be stronger for girls than boys. Additionally, due to the hypothesi zed relative strength of the relationship between social support and psychopathology in combination with the saliency of supportive peer and teache r relationships to adolescents, it is further postulated that peers and teachers may be a more important source of social support for girls regarding mental health outcomes. Finally, given the strong association between academic achievement and mental health in children, the role of achievement as a modera tor in the link between social support and mental health outcomes was explored. Based on the researchsupported negative associations between psychopathology and achievement (e.g., Bardone et al., 1996; Benner et al., 2008; Bonifacci et al., 2008) and the protective nature of academic achievement in adolescents (C arlton et al., 2006; Muratori & Filippo, 1997), it was hypothesized that high academic achievement would serve as a protective factor in the link between social support and mental health outcomes, while low academic achievement would serve as a risk factor fo r increased psychological dysfunction. Simply
49 stated, students with high academic achievement may not be as sensitive to the effects of social support, whereas the mental health of students who are performing poorly in school may vary more as a function of their available support resources.
50 Chapter 3 Method The present study assessed the interrelationships among social support, mental health, and academic achievement among 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. Moreover, in line with research identifying both positive a nd negative indicators in the construct of mental health (Greenspoon & Saklofske, 2001; Suldo & Schaffer, 2008), this study examined how specific sources of social support predict both ps ychopathology (negative indicators) and life satisfaction (LS; positive indicator) in youth. The relative influence of specific sources of perceived social s upport was also examined by gender, while achievement was examined as a potential mode rator in the association between social support and mental health. The primary variables of interest were sour ce of social support (i.e., parent, classmate, and teacher), psychopathology (i.e., internalizing and externalizing symtomatology), life satisfaction, and academic achievement. This chapter describes the participants, setting, instrumentation, independent and dependent variables, procedure, and data analyses utilized within the current study. Participants For the purpose of this study, archival data were analyzed. The dataset used in the current study was part of a larger study investigating the subjective well-being and psychopathology of middle school students in re lation to various educational, physical health, and social outcomes (Suldo & Sha ffer, 2008). Data were provided to this
51 examiner by the principal investigator of the aforementioned study, a faculty member from the USF School Psychology Program. Pa rticipants in the dataset included 401 students enrolled in grades six through eight at a local middle school; a subsample of 390 students with complete data on the variables of interest (i.e., so cial support, life satisfaction, internalizing a nd externalizing symptomatol ogy, and achievement) will be examined in the current study. The school under study is a large (approximately 1600 students), public school in a local urban school district. In order to maintain confidentiality, participant names and student identification number s were not disclosed to this researcher. Participant Selection Participation was elicited from students in the general, advanced, or gifted education tracts; demographic information a bout the sample is included in Table 1. In order to meet inclusion criteria, students mu st have had complete data for all of the following variables: social support, gender, psychopathology, achievement, and LS.
52 Table 1 Descriptive Statistics of Student Participants (N = 390) Variable n % Gender Male 154 40 Female 236 60 Grade 6 126 32 7 156 40 8 108 28 Ethnicity Caucasian 215 55 African-America n 54 14 His p anic/Latino 52 13 Asian 20 5 Native American 5 1 Multi-racial 37 10 Other 7 2 Socioeconomic status Low 98 25 Average/High 292 75 Measures Variables of interest for the current study included social support source (i.e., teacher, parent, and peer), psychopathology (i.e., externalizing and internalizing behaviors), life satisfaction, and academic achievement. The measurement of each variable is described within the subsequent sections. Socio-Demographic Variables Gender, school, grade level, race/ethnic ity, socio-economic status (SES), and age were based on self-report data obtained fr om the demographics form completed by participants (see Appendix A); SES was assessed using th e one-item indicator, Do you
53 receive free or reduced lunch?. Two sample Likert-type questions were included at the bottom of the demographics form to train stude nts in how to answer Likert-type questions using an example of a frequency (I go to the beach) and agreement (Going to the beach is fun) item. Students rated the items on a scale of 1 to 5. These sample questions represented the general format of all subsequent measures administered. Child and Adolescent Social Support Scale The Child and Adolescent Social Support Scale ( CASSS; Malecki, Demaray, & Elliot, 2000).is a 60-item self-report scale that measures participants perceptions of support received from five major sources incl uding parents, teachers, classmates, close friends, and school (see Appendix B). Each of the five source subscales consist of 12 items and measure four types of social support including emotional, instrumental, appraisal, and informational. Participants are asked to rate the frequency with which they perceive each type of support is enacted by a given source (e.g., My parent(s) show they are proud of me, My teacher(s) care about m e, and My classmates treat me nicely). Ratings are listed in a Like rt format and range from 1 ( never ) to 6 ( always ). Subscale frequency scores on the CASSS are calculate d by summing the frequency ratings on the 12 items on each subscale; higher scores are indicative of higher perceptions of support from a specific source. In the current study, only the Parent, Teacher, and Classmate subscales were analyzed. A rationale for omitting the Close Friend and School subscales was provided by the principal i nvestigator of the original data collection effort (c.f., Suldo & Shaffer, 2008). Specifically, anecdotal accounts and prior re search with these scales appeared to indicate questionable utility. For instan ce, regarding the Close Friend
54 subscale, it seems likely that by definition (or nature), a clos e friend provides the kind of support elicited by included items (i.e., My close friendhelps me when I need it, accepts me when I make mistakes, spends time with me). For this reason, it has been the experience of the principal investigator that this subscale results in such positively skewed data that data are not available to be subject to further analyses. As for the School subscale, issues related to the ambiguity of the perceived school support source are implicated for its omission. Specifically, items assessing school support are worded in such a manner that it is challenging to ascertain the actual source of the perceived support (e.g., teachers, classroom aids, ad ministrators, coaches) and thus data gathered from this subscale does not help to inform practical appl ications for increasing school support. Support for the reliability and validity of the CASSS (2000) is provided by previous studies with middle school student s, as summarized by Malecki and Demaray (2006). The fivefactor struct ure corresponding to the parent, teacher, classmate, close friend, and school subscales was confirmed via factor analyses in the same study. The CASSS (2000) Parent, Teacher, and Classmate subscales were significantly correlated with parent, teacher, and classmate frequency scores from the Social Support Scale for Children (SSSC; Harter, 1985; r = .56, .48, and .36, respectively) which is indicative of moderate to high construct validity (Malecki & Demaray, 2003). Regarding reliability, evidence was found for high 8 to 10 week testretest reliability ( r = .78). High internal consistency of the subscales of interest (i.e ., Parent, Teacher, and Classmate) is supported by alpha coefficients ranging from .92 to .93 (Malecki & Demaray, 2006). Additional research regarding the CASSS (2000) type (o f support) items help to provide some
55 evidence that that the items on the CASSS reflect the various types of support (e.g., emotional, instrumental) that were inte nded (Malecki & Demaray, 2003). Raters were provided with a one-sentence description of each of the respective types of support and were asked to categorize specific items from th e CASSS as one of the four types of social support. Results indicated that 92% of th e items were categorized correctly, which provides evidence that items on the CASSS are indeed indicative of the four separate constructs of social support. Students Life Satisfaction Scale. The Students Life Satisfaction Scale (SLSS; Huebner, 1991b; see Appendix C) is a seven-item self-report measur e of global life satisfaction; it was developed to be utilized with youth between th e ages of 8 and 18. Respondents are asked to indicate on a 6-point Likert scale ranging from 1 ( strongly disagree ) to 6 ( strongly agree) the extent to which they endorse general statements about their life (e.g., My life is just right, I wish I had a different life). Scaled scor es are obtained by reverse-scoring negatively worded items, then summing the responses a nd dividing by the number of items to yield an overall judgment of life satis faction. Higher scores are in dicative of higher levels of life satisfaction. The use of the SLSS to meas ure life satisfaction in adolescents is welldocumented throughout the litera ture (e.g., Fogle, Huebner, & Laughlin, 2002; Gilman & Heubner, 2006; Haranin, Huebner, & Sul do, 2007; Huebner, Funk, & Gilman, 2000). The reliability and validity of the SLSS ha s been investigated in studies of U.S. elementary school (Huebner, 1994) and mi ddle school students (Huebner, Gilman, Laughlin, 1999). The results have provided encouraging evidence of reliability and
56 validity for research purposes. For example, internal consistency estimates have been reported to fall within the 0.80.90 range (Gilligan & Huebner, 2007; Gilman & Huebner, 1997; Huebner, 1991b; Terry & Huebner, 1995) Moreover, one-month testretest coefficients (mean r = 0.72) suggest meaningful stability over time (Huebner et al., 1999). Evidence for construct validity with U.S. students has been provided through exploratory (Huebner, 1994) a nd confirmatory factor anal yses (Huebner et al., 1999). Moderate convergent validity has been f ound between the SLSS and other measures of SWB, such as the Piers-Harris happiness s ubscale (Piers, 1984) and the Andrews and Withey Life Satisfaction Scale (Andrews & Withey, 1976), w ith correlations of .34 to .62 (Huebner, 1991b). Finally, external va lidity is supported by the scales use among diverse samples of children and adolescents to determine global life satisfaction, including children identified w ith learning disabilities and emotional handicaps (Huebner & Alderman, 1993) and children from di fferent ethnic and cultural backgrounds (Greenspoon & Saklofske, 1997; Huebner, 1995). The Youth Self Report form of the Child Behavior Checklist The Youth Self Report form of the Child Behavior Checklist (YSR; Achenbach & Rescorla, 2001; not included as an appendix due to copyright restric tions) is comprised of 112 items designed to measure eight dimensions of psychopathology, among adolescent populations ranging in age from 11-18 years. The YSR assesses eight areas of problem behavior: anxious/depressed, withdrawn/de pressed, rule-breaking behavior, somatic complaints, aggressive behavior, social problems, thought problems, and attention problems. Responses are given on a 3-point Li kert scale in which subjects indicate the
57 degree to which a feeling or behavior is true fo r themselves currently (i.e., in the past six months). The scale is as follows: 0 = not true, 1 = somewhat or sometimes true, 2 = very true or often true. For the purposes of this study, only five of the eight subscales pertinent to the topic of investigation were analyzed. These subscales assessed internalizing (withdrawn/depressed, soma tic complaints, and anxious/depressed subscales) and externalizing (ru le-breaking behavior and aggr essive behavior subscales) behaviors. The YSRs utility in identifying children with symptoms of psychopathology is well supported throughout the literature. For instance, the YSR has been found to differentiate children with sy mptoms of psychopathology with high levels of accuracy, indicating high content validity. Specificall y, all items on the YSR have been found to discriminate between clinical populations of adolescents and non-referred samples (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2001). In regard to construct validity, correlations with the diagnostic categories of the DSM-IV check lists range from .27 to .60 (Achenbach, Dumenci, & Rescorla, 2001). Correlations with the Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC; Reynolds & Kamphaus, 1992), which include mother, father, and teacher reports of psychopathology, range from .38 to .89 (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2001). Regarding reliability, test-retest reliability at 8-days obtained co efficient alphas ranging from .80 to .90 (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2001). Since subscales were derived from factor analyses of the correlations among all ASEB A items, scale compositions are based on the internal consistency of particular subsets of items. Thus, the internal consistency of the internalizing and externalizing co mposite scales are quite high ( = .71.80 and .81-.86,
58 respectively; Achenbach & Rescorla, 2001). Academic Achievement During the 2006 data collection, researcher s ascertained achievement data from participants school records. For the purposes of this study, two different types of achievement variables (i.e., standardized a ssessments in reading and math, and middle school grade point average [GPA ]) were combined into a co mposite variable of academic achievement. Previous research on academic achievement in youth has utilized each of the indicators (i.e., standardized assessments and GPA) as a measure of academic achievement (e.g., Suldo & Shaffer, 2008; Annunziata, Hogue, Faw, & Liddle, 1996, respectively). Although these different indicator s of academic achievement have, in some cases, resulted in differential outcomes (e.g., Alva, 1993; Volpe et al., 2006), combining the two were considered to result in a more psychome trically sound construct. Specifically, GPA (ranging from 0-4) and Fl orida Comprehensive Achievement Test (FCAT) math and reading scores (ranging fr om 1-5) were standardized so that all indicators were on the same metric, and then averaged to create a mean achievement variable. Though this created variab le has little direct real-world applicability, it served to create enough variance to dis tinguish students with various levels of achievement. Procedure Student data Collection This section summarizes the procedures used to create the archival dataset examined in the current study. Description of procedures was ascertained through written
59 documents describing the specific procedures involved in the study that yielded the dataset (i.e., Suldo & Shaffe r, 2008; Suldo et al., 2009). Parental consent was obtained via a written parental consent form (see Appendix D) that students were require d to take home and return to school after obtaining parent signatures; such procedures may have been the source of unequal gender representation within the sub-sample. Specifically, girls may have been more likely than boys to take paperwork home, have it completed, and then return it back to school. After obtaining written student assent for participation, stude nts were asked to report to the school media center during their elective class period on one of two data collection dates in January of 2006 and complete questionnaires in groups of approximately 50-75 students. The principal investigator read al oud the student assent form (s ee Appendix E) to all students prior to completion of the surveys. Students we re told that they c ould withdraw from the study at any time during the course of data collection. Students then completed the demographic questionnaire and all measures de scribed earlier within this chapter. Measures in the survey packet were counterba lanced to control for order effects. The principal investigator and graduate student assistants were on hand throughout the administration of the surveys to assist stude nts with questions a nd ensure independent responding. Upon each students completion of the measures packet, a member of the research team visually scanned through the p acket to check for skipped items or response errors, and students were asked to comple te or correct the items as needed. Approximately 55-60 minutes was allotted fo r students to complete the measures.
60 Due to the archival nature of the data se t, this researcher had no control over data collection procedures, nor content included in the questionnaire. However, written documents by the researchers who collected th e data set suggest that precautions were taken to address potential threats to valid ity during data collection and maximize their ability obtain valid conclusions First, during the initial ad ministration in January of 2006, questionnaires in the survey packet we re counterbalanced to control for order effects. Further, the resear ch team collecting data had knowledge of the appropriate response modes for each questionnaire and was tr ained to answer students questions in a standardized manner to contro l for administration errors. The research team was also available on-site if student pa rticipants appeared agitated (e .g., tearful, angry) and/or expressed a desire to withdraw from the study although no such inci dent was reported. Regarding privacy, students were seated a ppropriate distances from one another to prevent the participants from seeing each others responses; frequent supervision and monitoring of student behavior and survey completion was ensured by the research team. Following student data collection, teachers were provided with detail ed instructions for completing all behavior rating scales and given contact info rmation for a member of the research team to answer any questions. Finally, no adverse events that would significantly effect the outcomes of this st udy occurred during student or teacher data collection. Analyses A de-identified dataset that was previ ously checked for errors was obtained from the principal investigator of the 2006 study; all data was entered, coded, and ready for
61 analysis. The following series of statistical analyses was performed to answer the research questions pos ed in this study. Descriptive Analyses Means, standard deviations, and additional descriptive data (i.e. skew, kurtosis, etc.) for the entire sample were obtained for a ll variables of interest, which include: social support (CASSS), life satisfaction (SLSS) psychopathology (externalizing and internalizing factors of the YSR), and indicators of academic achievement. Correlational Analyses (Research Question 1: What are the associations among social support, mental health, and academic achievement among early adolescents?) To determine the relationships between social support, mental health (i.e., psychopathology and life satisfaction), and academic achievement of middle school students, correlation coefficients were cal culated between each va riable. A correlation coefficient (ranging from -1 to +1) provides information about the strength and direction of the relationship between two variables. An alpha level of .05 was used to determine statistical significance. Regression Analyses (Research Question 2: Which sources of support [parent, teacher, classmate] are most predictive of in ternalizing psychopathology, externalizing psychopathology, and life satisfaction?) To determine the sources of social s upport most predictive of mental health outcomes in students, data from the sample of 390 middle school students was subjected to a series of three simultaneous multiple regression analyses; separate regression analyses were conducted for each outcom e variable (internalizing behavior,
62 externalizing behavior, and life satisfaction). In each regression analysis, each of the three specific sources of social support (i.e., teacher, parent, and classmate) was simultaneously entered as predictor variable s. In simultaneous re gression, all variables are entered into a regression equation concur rently to determine the proportion of the variance in the criterion variable for wh ich each predictor variable is uniquely accountable. An alpha level of .05 was used to determine statistical si gnificance of beta weights. Beta weights, also termed standa rdized regression coefficients (to denote zscale), show the predicted change in the de pendent variable given a one-unit standard deviation change in the indepe ndent variable while control ling for the other independent variables in the equation. The size of beta we ights reflects the relative importance of the various predictor variables. Group Differences (Research Question 3: Are there gender differences in the relationships between support and mental hea lth, such that certain sources of support are more or less salient to girls or boys?) To determine if the sources of support predict life satisfaction and psychopathology similarly for both boys and girls, additional regres sion analyses were conducted using life satisfaction, internalizing behaviors, and extern alizing behaviors as the criterion variables (re spectively), and the three sources of social support, gender, and moderator terms represented by interactions between gende r and social support sources (e.g., gender x parent, gender x teacher suppor t) as the predictors. As suggested by Aiken and West (1991), predictor variable s were centered by subtracting the group mean from each individuals score on that particular variable to address potential
63 muticollinearity between the predictors, modera tor, and the interaction terms. An alpha level of .05 was used to identify statis tically significant in teraction terms. Moderator Tests (Research Question 4: Does academic achievement serve as a risk or protective factor in the link between social support and mental health, such that high achievement buffers students from the negative effects of low support or low achievement exacerbates the negative e ffects of low support?). To determine if achievement functioned as a moderator in the relationship between perceived social support and ment al health in students, additi onal regression analyses that include interaction terms were conducted. To test for moderation, three separate regression analyses were conducted using the in dicators of mental health (life satisfaction and psychopathology) as the de pendent/criterion variables and perceived sources of social support, achievement, and the interaction of social s upport and achievement as the predictors/independent variable s. As above, predictor variab les were centered and an alpha level of .05 was used to identify stat istically significant beta weights. Given that significant intera ction terms were identified, follow-up procedures were conducted to determine the exact nature of the relationship. Specifically, significant interactions were explored by calculating a simple regression line for three values (i.e., one standard deviation above the samp le mean, at the sample mean, and one standard deviation below the sample mean). The result s for the three values were plotted for the indicated mental health outcome and the sl opes for the three values were compared.
64 Chapter 4 Results This chapter presents the results of the analyses conducted to answer the research questions within the current study. First, correlations among variab les are provided to illustrate the relationships between soci al support, mental health, and academic achievement among adolescents. Next, results from regression analyses conducted to determine which sources of social support (paren t, teacher, classmate) are most predictive of mental health outcomes (specifically, internalizing psychopathology, externalizing psychopathology, and life satisfaction) are pres ented. Then, results of regression analyses conducted to determine if gender differences exist in the relationships between social support and mental health are presented. Finally, results from regression analyses conducted to determine if academic achievement serves as a risk or protective factor in the link between social support a nd mental health are shared, as are graphs that depict the nature of the identified interaction effects. Data Screening During data entry for the original research study that yielded the dataset analyzed in the current study, data were checked for errors and accuracy (Suldo & Schaffer, 2008). For the current study, data were screened using Statistical Analysis Software (SAS) to detect the presence of either univariate and/or multivariate outliers. Univariate outliers were defined as participants scoring more than 3.5 standard deviations from the group
65 mean on any variable of interest (i.e., life satisfaction, internalizing problems, externalizing problems, parent support, teacher support, classmate support, and achievement). Multivariate outliers were de fined as subjects scoring higher than 22.46, the criterion determined by the Mahalanobis dist ance for 6 degrees of freedom. Of note, the achievement variable was not included in the analysis of multivariate outliers due to the fact that this variable was only utilized within a small portion of the analyses. A total of 9 subjects were identified as multivariate outliers, while 3 subjects were identified as univariate outliers (all of which were also identified through multivariate screening procedures). As a result, a total of 9 subjects were rem oved and excluded from further analyses. Thus, the dataset retained for all subsequent analyses consisted of 381 participants. ScaleRreliability Prior to further analyses, all scales u tilized within the study (i.e., CASSS, SLSS, and YSR subscales) were analyzed to dete rmine the internal consistency of each. Cronbachs alpha ranged from .82 (Achievement ) .95 (Parent Support, Teacher Support, and Classmate Support), indicating high estimat es of reliability for each scale. Descriptive Analyses Descriptive statistics for the data set, which excluded identified outliers, are presented in Table 2. To assess univariate normality, skew and kurtosis of each of the seven variables were calculated. All obtained values, with the exception of internalizing problems (skew = -1.19, kurtosis = 1.57) and externalizing problems (skew = 1.16, kurtosis = 1.21), were between -1.0 and + 1.0, demonstrating a normal distribution of
66 scores on each of the target variables. Although the skew and kurtosis of the externalizing and internalizing problem va riables indicated a slightly non-normal distribution, the variables were retained due to Walker and Maddans (2008) observation that statistical software packages (such as SAS) use a popul ar formula to calculate skew and kurtosis values such that the acceptable range is between -3.0 and +3.0 (p. 141). Table 2 Means, Standard Deviations, Ranges, Skew, and Kurtosis of Variables Variable N M SD Range Skewness Kurtosis Predictor Teacher Support 381 4.86 .99 1.5 6.0 -.99 .37 .95 Parent Support 381 4.79 1.11 1.0 6.0 -.98 .19 .95 Peer Support 381 4.28 1.18 1.0 6.0 -.48 -.50 .95 Achievement (standardized) 381 .00 .86 -2.45 -1.18 -.53 -.61 .82 Outcome Internalizing Problems 379 11.06 8.11 0 46 1.19 1.57 .89 Externalizing Problems 377 9.92 7.45 0 38 1.16 1.21 .90 Life Satisfaction 381 4.56 1.03 1.0 6.0 -.82 .26 .90 Note Higher scores reflect increase d levels of the construct i ndicated by the variable name Correlational Analyses Pearson product-moment correlations am ong all continuous variables included in analyses are presented in Table 3. As can be seen, the subscales from the CASSS (i.e.,
67 Teacher, Parent, and Classmate Support scales ) are all moderately correlated with one another ( r = .39 .51, p <. 01), as are the subscales of the YSR (i.e., Internalizing and Externalizing; r = .54, p < 01). As expected, life sa tisfaction was significantly negatively correlated with both intern alizing and externalizing problems ( r = -.52 and .51, respectively, p < .01). As for the various inte rrelations among th e predictor and outcome variables, life satisfaction was positively associated with the social support variables (r = .37 .67), with parent s upport identified as the str ongest correlate. Also as expected, the social support variables displayed a moderate ly inverse relationship with both internalizing and ex ternalizing problems (r = -.21 -.51, p < .01). The strongest association was yielded between parent support and externalizing problems, such that students who perceived high levels of social support from parents also tended to selfreport fewer externalizing symptoms of psychopathology. Student achievement demonstrated small correlations with teacher support and parent support (r = .15 and .23, respectively); classmate support was not rela ted to achievement. Achievement, however, evidenced a moderate positive association with life satisfaction indicating that students with high levels of life satisfaction also tend ed to earn higher grad es and test scores ( r = .30, p < 01). Finally, achievement was negativel y associated with both internalizing and externalizing problems ( r = -.19 and -.35, respectively). A review of the magnitude of these relationships indicated that of th e two psychopathology outcome variables, achievement is more closely associated with externalizing problems.
Note *p < .01, ** p < .0001 Table 3 Intercorrelations betw een Predictor and Outcom e Variables (N = 381) Variable 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 1. Teacher Support 1 2. Parent Support .51** 1 3. Classmate Support .39** .43** 1 4. Life Satisfaction .37** .67** .38** 1 5. Internalizing Problems -.21** -.38** -.29** -.52** 1 6. Externalizing Problems -.37** -.51** -.24** -.51** .54** 1 7. Achievement .15* .23* .06 .30** -.19* -.35** 1 Regression Analyses To determine the extent to which par ticular sources of social support were predictive of mental health outcomes, a se ries of multiple regression analyses were conducted for each outcome variable of inte rest (i.e., life satisf action, internalizing behavior, externalizing behavi or; Table 4). An alpha level of .05 was used to determine statistical significance. 68
69 Table 4 Summary of Simultaneous Regression Analyses for Variables Predic ting Mental Health Outcomes R2Parameter Estimates Uniqueness Indices Predictors B SE B sr t Internalizing Behavior .16 1. Parent Support -2.27 .42 -.31*** .06 -5.39** 2. Teacher Support .07 .46 .01 .00 .15 3. Classmate Support -1.12 .37 -.16** .02 -3.02** Externalizing Behavior .27 1. Parent Support -2.94 .36 -.44*** .13 -8.16*** 2. Teacher Support -1.10 .39 -.15** .02 2.80** 3. Classmate Support .02 .31 .00 .00 .08 Life Satisfaction .45 1. Parent Support .57 .04 .61*** .25 13.09*** 2. Teacher Support .02 .05 .02 .00 .41 3. Classmate Support .09 .04 .11* .01 2.50* Note *p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .0001 Internalizing and Externalizing Behavior Two separate regression equations we re computed for internalizing and externalizing psychopathology. Social support accounted for 16% of the variance in
70 internalizing behavior and 27% of the variance in externaliz ing behavior. Parent support was the strongest pred ictor of both intern alizing behavior ( = -.31) and extern alizing behavior ( = -.44). Parent support was strongly, inversely related to both outcome variab les, indicating that greater perceptions of social support from parents dually predicts lower levels of internalizing and externalizing symptomatology. Parent support and classmate support made unique contributions to the variance explained in internalizing behavior problem s, while parent suppor t and teacher support accounted for a unique amount of the variance explained in externalizing problems. More specifically, parent support accounted for 6% and classmate support accounted for 2% of the variance in internalizing behavior, afte r controlling for the c ontributions of other social support sources in pr edicting this outcome (see Tabl e 4). Regarding externalizing behaviors, after controlling for the contribu tions of other sources, parent support and teacher support (sr = .13, sr = .02, respectively) both made unique contributions in predicting students external izing psychopathology. Thus, it appears social support from parents is associated with the manifestati on of fewer internalizing and externalizing behaviors in students, while support from cl assmates and teachers co-occurs only with fewer symptoms of internalizing behaviors or externalizing behaviors, respectively. Life Satisfaction To determine the extent to which social support predicted life satisfaction, each specific source of support (i.e., parent, teacher, and classmate) was entered into a simultaneous multiple regression equation. Soci al support explained 45% of the variance
71 in global life satisfaction ( R = .45). However, only parent and classmate support uniquely predicted life satisfaction. In other word s, after controlling fo r the shared variance among these three different sources of support, social support from parents and classmates were the only sources of support th at independently relate d to differences in students global life satisfaction. Specifically, greater perceptions of both parent ( = .61) and classmate ( = .11) support were rela ted to increased global life satisfaction and together, accounted for a total of 26% of the unique variance explained in life satisfaction. The magnitude of the beta wei ghts associated with parent and classmate support suggest that social support from pa rents is a much stronger predictor of life satisfaction than social support from classm ates, albeit both are important and unique contributors to life satisfaction. The uniqueness indices associated with each predictor indicated that after controlli ng for the contributions of ot her two sources of support, parent support alone accounted for 25% of the variance in life satisfaction ( sr = .25), and classmate support explained an additional 1% of the variance in stude nts life satisfaction scores that was not explained by perceptions of social support from parents or teachers. Moderator Tests Gender. To determine if gender differentially affected how social support related to mental health outcomes in middle school students, a series of multiple regression analyses were conducted that included interaction terms be tween each source of social support and gender (i.e., gender*parent support, gender*teacher support, gender*classmate support). A moderator is iden tified when the effect of one variable depends on the different levels of anothe r (i.e., an interacti on; Baron & Kenny, 1986).
72 Thus, a moderator variable would change the direction or strength between an independent and dependant variablein this cas e, social support and mental health. To test for moderation, three separate regr ession analyses were conducted using the indicators of mental health (i.e., lif e satisfaction and psychopathology) as the dependent/criterion variable, and gender, soci al support source, and the interaction of gender and social support as the predicto rs/independent variables. All continuous predictor variables (i.e., parent support, classmate support, and teacher support) were centered by subtracting the group mean from each predictor variable. An alpha level of .05 was used to identify statisti cally significant interaction te rms. Results of regression analyses (with gender as a moderator) are presented in Table 5.
73 Table 5 Student Mental Health Predicted by Support Source, Gender, and Interactions Parameter Estimates Uniqueness Indices B SE B sr t R2Internalizing Behavior Model .22 1.Teacher Support -.53 .65 -.07 .00 -.82 2. Parent Support -1.22 .70 -.15 .01 -1.74 3. Classmate Support 4. Gender 5. Parent Support x Gender 6. Classmate Support x Gender 7. Teacher Support x Gender -1.46 4.37 -1.27 0.12 .26 .57 .78 .86 .73 .90 -.21 .26 -.14 .01 -.01 .01 .06 .00 .00 .00 -2.56** -5.60*** -1.48 0.16 -.28 Externalizing Behavior Model .27 1.Teacher Support -1.81 .58 -.24 .02 -3.14*** 2. Parent Support -2.41 .61 -.36 .03 -3.91*** 3. Classmate Support 4. Gender 5. Parent Support x Gender 6. Classmate Support x Gender 7. Teacher Support x Gender -.24 -56 -.83 -.43 1.25 .50 .69 .76 .64 .79 .04 .04 .07 -.10 -.05 .00 .00 .00 .00 .00 .48 .81 -1.09 -.66 1.56 Life Satisfaction Model .45 1.Teacher Support .06 .07 .06 .00 .93 2. Parent Support .48 .07 .52 .06 6.51*** 3. Classmate Support 4. Gender 5. Parent Support x Gender 6. Classmate Support x Gender 7. Teacher Support x Gender .14 -.16 .12 -.05 -.06 .06 .08 .09 .08 .10 .15 -.07 .10 -.04 -.04 .01 .01 .00 .00 .00 2.26* -1.93 1.31 -.65 -.58 Note *p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p <.0001
74 A review of the significance tests ( t -tests) indicated a main effect of gender on internalizing behavior within the current sample. Specifically, gender accounted for 6% of the unique variance in th e presence of internalizing symptoms. Females reported higher levels of internalizing symptomatology, wh ich is consistent with previous research (Leadbeater, Blatt, & Quinlan, 1995). Howeve r, there were no significant interaction effects between gender and any of the social support variables. Thus within the current sample, gender did not moderate the relations hip between social support and any of the mental health outcomes examined (specificall y, life satisfaction, in ternalizing problems, and externalizing problems). These findings sugg est that the influence of social support on mental health is sim ilar for boys and girls. Achievement To determine if achievement differentially affected how social support related to mental health outcomes in middle school students, an additional series of multiple regression analyses were conducte d that included interaction terms between each source of social support and achievement (i.e., achievement*parent support, achievement*teacher support, achievement*cla ssmate support). Once again, to test for moderation, three separate regression analyses were conducted using the indicators of mental health (i.e., life satisfaction and psychopathology) as the dependent/criterion variable, and achievement, social suppor t source, and the in teraction between achievement and social support as the predic tors/independent variables. All variables were first centered by subtrac ting the group mean from each predictor variable. An alpha level of .05 was used to identify statistically significant interaction terms. A summary of
75 the regression analyses results (with achieveme nt conceptualized as a moderator variable) are presented in Table 6.
76 Table 6 Student Mental Health Pr edicted by Support Source, Ac hievement, and Interactions Parameter Estimates Uniqueness Indices B SE B sr t R2Internalizing Behavior Model .16 1.Teacher Support .20 .49 .02 .00 .41 2. Parent Support -2.10 .44 -.29 .06 -4.72*** 3. Classmate Support 4. Achievement 5. Parent Support x Achieve 6. Classmate Support x Achieve 7. Teacher Support x Achieve -1.18 -1.12 -.07 .01 -25 .39 .46 .51 .45 .56 -.17 -.12 -.01 .00 .03 .02 .01 .00 .00 .00 -3.04** -2.43** -.13 .03 .44 Externalizing Behavior Model .34 1.Teacher Support -1.03 .40 -.14 .01 -2.58** 2. Parent Support -2.30 .36 -.34 .07 -6.32*** 3. Classmate Support 4. Achievement 5. Parent Support x Achieve 6. Classmate Support x Achieve 7. Teacher Support x Achieve -.24 -1.90 1.18 -.75 -.39 .31 .38 .42 .36 .46 -.04 -.22 .15 -.11 -.05 .00 .04 .01 .01 .00 -.76 -5.01*** 2.84** -2.05* -.87 Life Satisfaction Model .47 1.Teacher Support .01 .05 .01 .00 .18 2. Parent Support .53 .04 .57 .20 11.91*** 3. Classmate Support 4. Achievement 5. Parent Support x Achieve 6. Classmate Support x Achieve 7. Teacher Support x Achieve .11 .19 .00 .04 .01 .04 .05 .05 .04 .06 .12 .16 .00 .04 .01 .01 .02 .00 .00 .00 2.77** 4.07*** .00 .83 .19 Note *p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .00
77 To interpret the interaction effect, two graphs were constructed to depict the relationship between social support source (parent, cla ssmate) and externalizing psychopathology for students with three di fferent achievement levels (i.e., low achievement, average achievement, and high achievement). Guidelines advanced by Cohen and Cohen (1983) suggest that researches define low, moderate/average, and high levels of a given continuous moderato r variable by using values of the moderator variable that correspond to one standard deviation below the sample mean, at the sample mean, and one standard deviation above the sample mean. Thus, in the current study, a prototypical low achiever possessed a standardized achieve ment score of -.86 (i.e., one standard deviation below the sample mean). A prototypical average achievement score corresponded to a standardized achievement score of zero (i.e., the mean achievement score for the sample). Finally, a prototypica l high achiever possessed a standardized achievement score of .86 (i.e., one standard deviation above the sample mean). Next, the moderating effect of achieveme nt was clarified by using the regression equation obtained in the moderator analysis (i .e., externalizing behavi or = parent support + teacher support + classmate support + achi evement + parent support x achievement + teacher support x achievement + classmate support x achievement) to calculate predicted values of externalizing behavior for student s with low, average, and high levels of achievement. The specific equation used was as follows: predicted externalizing behavior = 9.78 (1.03 x teacher support) (2.30 x parent support) (.24 x classmate support) (1.90 x achievement) + (1.18 x pa rent support x achievement) (.75 x classmate support x achievement) (.39 x teach er support x achievement). Using that
78 equation, values of externalizing behavior were obtained for the range of possible scores (i.e., -2.5 to 2.5, which represent the values th at are possible when the original 1 to 6 likert scale is centered) on the parent support scale and classmate support scale, respectively, for hypothetical students with lo w, average, and high achievement levels (as previously defined). Next, these obtained pr edicted values of externalizing problems (by student achievement level) were plotted to ex amine the influence of both parent and peer support on adolescent externaliz ing problems for a typical low-, average-, and highachieving student. Figures 1 and 2 visually de pict how the relationships between social support and adolescent externalizing problems differ as a function of student level of achievement. Classmate support. As shown in Figure 1, the direction of the relationship between students perceptions of classm ate social support an d their levels of externalizing problems differs according to achievement level. For students with low achievement, the trend in the data shows stude nts who perceived higher levels of social support from their classmates also reported more externalizing symptomatology. On the other hand, among students with average and high achievement, the inverse trend was observed, such that higher levels of cla ssmate support were associated with fewer externalizing symptoms of psychopathology.
Figure 1. Predicted externalizing behavior from classmate support for low-, average-, and high-achieving students. Parent support As shown in Figure 2, the influence of perceived parent support on externalizing psychopathology appears most influential with lower achievement groups. Specifically, the slopes of the regr ession lines for students with different achievement levels indicated that parent s upport is particularly sa lient for low-achieving students. Although the trend in the data show that increasing levels of perceived parent support are associated with fewer externalizi ng symptoms for all achievement levels, the magnitude of this relationship weakens with increasing levels of achievement such that low-achieving students who perceive low pa rental support are more at-risk for manifesting additional symptoms of externaliz ing symptoms than students who perceive the same level of parent support but who have average or high achievement. Similarly, students with high achievement appear to be th e least at-risk for manifesting externalizing psychopathology in the face of low perceptions of social support from parents. 79
0 5 10 15 20 25 2.5 2.5Externalizing BehaviorsParent Support Low Achievement Average Achievement High Achievement Figure 2. Predicted externalizing behavior from parent support for low-, average-, and high-achieving students. 80
81 Chapter 5 Discussion The current study examined relationships among social support, mental health, and academic achievement in a sample of middle school students. Specifically, research questions addressed (1) the bivariate relations hips among the variables of interest (i.e., social support from parents, teachers, a nd classmates, life satisfaction, externalizing symptoms, internalizing symptoms, and academ ic achievement), (2) the degree to which specific sources of social support were most predictive of the aforementioned outcomes, and finally, (3) the moderating role of gende r and achievement (independently) in the relationship between social support and each mental health outcome. The following discussion addresses the findings of this study in relation to po sited research questions as presented in Chapter 2. Also included is a discussion of the implications the present study holds for the field of school psychology. The ch apter concludes with a consideration of the limitations of the current study followe d by directions for future research. Associations between Social Support, Mental Health, and Academic Achievement Bivariate associations between the social support variables (i.e., parent, teacher, classmate) and the mental health indicators (i.e., internalizing symptoms, externalizing symptoms, and life satisfaction) were consistent with extant literature findings (Appleyard, Egeland, & Byron, 2007; Huebne r, Funk, & Gilman, 2000). Specifically, social support variables we re inversely associated w ith both internalizing and
82 externalizing problems, and conversely, ha d a large positive re lationship with life satisfaction. In other words, fewer symp toms of psychopathology and higher life satisfaction tended to co-occur with perceptions of higher le vels of social support from parents, teachers, and classmat es. Notably, of all of the social support variables, parent support yielded the strongest links with all three mental health variables. Thus, it appears that while adolescents may seek, and benef it from, the support of classmates and peers (Furman & Buhrmester, 1992), it is actually the percep tion of support from parents that is most related to students mental health. This is consistent wi th findings from other studies that have examined the differential relations hips among complete ment al health (i.e., the absence of indicators of psychopathology and presence of indicators of wellness) and various sources of social support which have consistently indicated that support from parents is most often related to indicators of student adjustment and maladjustment. Specifically, in prior studies, parent suppor t exerted a strong negative association with internalizing and externalizing problems (Cheng, 1997), and conversely, a strong positive association with subjective well-being (of wh ich life satisfaction is a vital component), even above that predicted by other sources of support (Liebkind & Jasinskaja-Lahti, 2000). Such findings emphasize the saliency of parent support to adolescents mental health and functioning. Regarding achievement, both teacher and parent support evidenced positive, albeit small, associations with the constr uct comprised of students grades and FCAT scores. The small magnitude of these relations hips indicates that while perceptions of high levels of support from teachers and parents co-occur with higher academic
83 achievement, there are other more important factors that account for adolescent achievement levels that must be considere d. Of note, classmate support did not yield a significant correlation with achievement scores. The literature pertaining to peer support and achievement has yielded mixed findings. For example, Chen (2008) obtained similar results in her study examining social support a nd achievement in a sample of adolescents from Hong Kong. However, Somer, Owens, a nd Piliawsky (2008) concluded that close friend and classmate support was mildly correl ated with better grades in their study comprised of African-American students. On e possible reason for such inconsistent findings is that previous st udies have differed in how they defined supportive peer relationships. Some studies distinguished be tween classmates and close friends in their examination of peer relationships (e.g., So mer et al.), whereas ot hers have assessed support from both classmates and close frie nds in a single peer category (e.g., Chen). Although this variation in how peer is defi ned is common within child and adolescent literature, research has shown that acquaintances or peers in general (i.e., classmates) exhibit different levels of so cial support that yield dive rse outcomes for children and adolescents in comparison to close friends (Demaray & Malecki, 2002; Harter, 1990). Thus, it is plausible that diffe rential findings could be attrib uted to inconsistencies in a conceptual definition of the term peer. In addition, inconsistent findings may be due to unique features of the sample studied (as discussed in subsequent sections regarding the moderating role of stude nt achievement). As expected, achievement was negatively associated with internalizing and externalizing symptoms and positively associated with life satisfaction among
84 adolescents in the current study. The relations hip between achievement and externalizing symptoms evidenced the strongest relations hip. This finding is consistent with the positive relationship evidenced in earlier st udies between early externalizing problems (e.g., non-compliance, aggression, rule-breaki ng behaviors) and i ndicators of poor academic performance (e.g., low grades and poor academic engagement; e.g., Austin & Agar, 2005; Efrati-Virtzer & Margalit, 2009; Gonzales et al., 2008). One plausible explanation for the strong a ssociation between externaliz ing behaviors and academic underachievement stems from research that shows high levels of ex ternalizing behaviors predict higher rates of ou t-of-school suspension (Reinke Herman, Petras, & Ialongo, 2007) and truancy (Hunt & Hopko, 2009). Thus, students are excluded from the learning environment and have fewer hours of instruction. This time away from academic instruction and stimulation may exacerbate academic underachievement. Moreover, the fact that externalizing beha viors (e.g., aggression, destru ction of property) are often incongruent with academic tasks (e.g., academic engagement) might be also provide a plausible explanation for the observed relationship. The current studys finding that high life satisfaction tended to co-occur with higher academic achievement among adolesce nts is also consistent with previous literature (i.e., Suldo et al., 2006). Interestingly, Suldo and colleagues refer to the happyproductive worker hypothesis as a plausible explanation for the trend, which contends that happy workers produce higher levels of job perfor mance than unhappy workers (p. 569). This premise has received support w ithin adult literature (e.g., Wright et al., 2002; Wright & Croanzano, 2002), and has been cited as a potential basis for the
85 association between life satisfaction and academic achievement due to the analogous relationship of adults and the workplace to students and schools (Suldo et al.). Mental Health Outcomes Predicted by Sources of Social Support Internalizing Problems The current study found social support to be an important predictor of internalizing symptoms in youth, as it accounte d for 16% of the vari ance in internalizing behavior. Consistent with previ ous literature (Christie-Mizell e et al., 2008; Rosario et al., 2008), higher perceptions of social support were indicative of lower internalizing symptoms within the current sample. While both classmate and parent support made unique contributions to this relationship, on ce again, parent support emerged as the most important predictor, after controlling for th e commonality amongst other sources of social support sources in predicting internalizi ng symptoms. A recent longitudinal study examining the associations between adoles cent adjustment and perceived parental support across the middle school years supports such findings as declining levels of parent support were found to accompany increases in symptoms of internalizing and externalizing problems (Hafen & Laursen, 2009) Inadequate feelings of self worth, which are often a prelude to internalizi ng difficulties (Laursen, Furman, & Mooney, 2006), may stem from low levels of parental support, which may explain the saliency of the supportive context of the family in mitigating internalizing symptoms. Externalizing Problems Similarly, students perceived levels of so cial support yielded a significant linear relationship with externalizi ng behaviors. Specifically, hi gher perceptions of social
86 support predicted fewer symptoms of extern alizing psychopathology within the current sample. Notably, social support yielded a stronger relationship with externalizing problems (in comparison to internalizing probl ems), as social support accounted for over a quarter of the variance in this outcome. It is unclear why the magnitude of the relationship between social support and ps ychopathology is stronger for externalizing symptoms. One plausible explan ation might be due to the ov ert nature of externalizing symptomatology. Given that externalizing problems are more readily apparent to others, support and constructive feedback may be more likely to be offered (or withdrawn) by the available support sources in response to students acting-out behaviors. Due to the covert nature of most internalizing sympto ms, these under-the-radar behaviors are less likely to be observed and thus, may result in lower levels of received (and dually, perceived) support. Further research needs to be conducted in order to provide more definitive conclusions regarding these relationships. Once again, the current study found that so cial support from parents made the largest unique contribution in mitigating exte rnalizing problems, further underscoring the distinctive role parents play in predicting me ntal health outcomes for youth. These results are consistent with the noti on that warm, supportive parent-child relationships may help to foster an environment that promotes constructive coping rather than disruptive behavior (Windle, 1992). Interestingly, teach er support also made a unique contribution in predicting students ex ternalizing psychopathology, a lthough classmate support did not; the reverse trend was observed regardi ng internalizing psychopathology. There is a dearth of research in the lit erature pertinent to outcomes associated with adolescents
87 perceptions of teacher support. However, research with children indicates that teacher support may be particularly salient for childr en who display early behavioral problems (Pianta et al., 1995). Such effects of supportiv e teacher-student relationships also remain evident among students from diverse cultures and minority populations, as evidenced in a study among aggressive African American a nd Hispanic students in which supportive student-teacher relationships were associated with declin es in aggressive behavior between the second and third grade (Meehan et al., 2003). Additional research exploring a potential causal link between teacher support and externaliz ing symptoms would help to provide more evidence for the importance of healthy student-tea cher relationships. Life Satisfaction Results indicated that social support explained 45% of the variance in global life satisfaction, which is almost double that explained in students symptoms of psychopathology. Such a finding i ndicates that perceived soci al relationship variables share a much stronger relationship with we llness than psychopathology, a premise which is beginning to receive support in adolescen t literature. A recent study examined the impact of bullying on elementary and middl e school students we ll-being (i.e., life satisfaction; Flaspohler, Elfstrom, Vanderz ee, & Sink, 2009). Results indicated that students who were victimized were less satisfied with their lives. Follow-up analyses determined that social support served as a moderator in the link between victimization and life satisfaction. In other wo rds, various levels of percei ved social support from peers and teachers affected the relationships be tween victimization and life satisfaction differentially, such that students who percei ved high levels of both peer and teacher
88 social support exhibited the weakest a ssociation between victimization and life satisfaction, which suggests social support pr ovides a strong buffer against the negative effects of bullying. This study is important as it is one of few to highlight the importance of social support to child and adolescent life satisfaction, al beit in the context resilience to bullying. Both classmate and parent support were also found to uniquely contribute to the variance explained in life satisfaction, though parent support was overwhelmingly the larger contributor accounting for 25% of th e variance (vs. 1% explained by classmate support). Consistent with extant research, thes e findings indicate that higher perceptions of support from parents (Danielson, Samdal, Hetland, & Wold, 2009; Suldo & Huebner, 2004) and classmates (Danielson et al.) predic t higher ratings of gl obal life satisfaction. A recent study, representing one of the firs t to examine the unique contributions of perceived social support from parents, teachers, and peers in adolescen ts life satisfaction, supports this trend and further delineates this relationship (D anielson et al.). Specifically, Danielson and colleagues found direct and in direct effects between the aforementioned constructs in their sample of 13-and 15-year-old Norwegia n students. While parent and classmate support had direct effects on students life satisf action (consistent with the findings of the current study), social support fr om teachers, classmates, and parents also had indirect effects on life satisfactio n through scholastic competence, school satisfaction, and general self-efficacy. Although teacher support was not a unique pr edictor of students life satisfaction within the current study, the importance of teacher support to students wellness should
89 not be discounted. Prior rese arch (e.g., Suldo et al., 2009) has demonstrated a strong relationship between students perceptions of teacher support and their subjective-well being (of which, life satisfaction is a component). Such findings were also consistent with results indicating a strong bivariate relati onship between perceive d teacher support and life satisfaction within the curr ent study. It is only when teacher support is examined in combination with both parent and teacher support that its significance is greatly diminished. Thus, while teacher support is an important predictor of wellness in adolescents, its significance is not above a nd beyond the influence of perceived support from classmates and teachers. Moderators of Social Su pport and Mental Health Gender Within the current sample, gender was found to be associated with internalizing psychopathology such that females reported hi gher levels of inte rnalizing symptoms, which is consistent with available research within adolescent l iterature (see NolenHoeksema, 1990, for a review). However, ge nder did not moderate the relationship between social support and the examined mental health outcomes for students within the current study. In other words, social suppor t appears to play a consistent role in predicting mental health outcomes, regardless of gender. Given the relative inconsistency observed within the literature regarding the mediating and/or modera ting role of gender in adolescent mental health, th is finding is not a surprise. Moreover, research examining social support in relation to self-esteem and depression al so found equivalence between
90 both males and females regarding the salien cy of specific sources of support to the aforementioned outcomes (Colarassi & Eccles, 2003). Achievement Within the current sample, achievement wa s a consistent determinant of students psychological functioning. As expected, th ere was an inverse relationship between academic achievement and psychopathology, such that high levels of academic achievement tended to co-occur with fewer symptoms of internalizing and externalizing behavior, even after the influe nce of social support was ta ken into account. Conversely, there was a positive relationship between achievement and life satisfaction, indicating that high achievement predicted high life satisfaction. As aforementioned, the strongest relationship was evidenced between academic ac hievement and externalizing behaviors. Regarding moderation, academic achievemen t played an important role in the relationship between (1) cla ssmate support and externalizi ng behavior and (2) parent support and externalizing behavior In other words, the magnit ude and/or direction of the relationship between students perceptions of social support from classmates and parents and corresponding levels of externalizing pr oblems differed according to varying levels of achievement. For students with low achieveme nt, the trend in the da ta showed students who perceived higher levels of social support from their classmates also reported more externalizing symptomatology, which was inco nsistent with the hypothesized trend. On the other hand, among students wi th average and high achieveme nt, the inverse trend was observed, such that higher levels of peer s upport were associated with fewer externalizing
91 symptoms of psychopathology. Thus, classmate support emerged as adaptive for averageand high-achieving students only. At first glance, this relationship might appear to be counterintuitive. However, when broad characterizations of lowvs. middleand high-achieving students are utilized to aid interpretation, the nature of the relationship begins to make more sense. Within the school from which the current sample of st udents was drawn, it is common practice to group students in classrooms by achievement le vel; the specific track s are termed gifted (i.e., highest achievement student s, including those identified as intellectually gifted), advanced (high-achieving students), and regul ar (lowto moderateachieving students). Thus, social norms and teacher expectations for classroom and academic behavior may vary as a function of student achieveme nt level. The current study found that achievement yielded a significant, inverse re lationship with symptoms of externalizing, such that low academic achievement is relate d to more externalizing problems. Within a middle school classroom, it is not uncommon for the kids who are acting out (e.g., class clown) to receive the most attenti on from their peers, which may possibly be interpreted as a perception of social support. Conversely, the averageand high-achieving students are likely to be exhibiting the least amount of externalizing behaviors. Due to their failure to elicit the a ttention of their peer s through overt behavi oral distractions, these students may perceive low support from their classmates. A second hypothesis involves classmates acceptan ce of students academic underachievement and acting out behaviors. Specifically, acting out behavior s may be accepted and reinforced socially within less academically-focused environments, whereas classrooms comprised
92 predominantly of high-achieving students are often more studi ous and academicallyfocused, and a disruption of the learning envi ronment as a result of student acting out behaviors may not be viewed favorably (and th us not socially reinforced) by classmates. These hypotheses for why social support from cl assmates is related to more externalizing behaviors among low-achieving students but less externalizing problems among higherachieving students need to be tested empiri cally in order to assert more definitive conclusions. Regarding parent support and externalizi ng problems, a similar directional effect amongst students with varying levels of achie vement was observed, but differences in magnitude were noted. Specifically, the in fluence of perceived parent support on externalizing psychopathology appeared most influential within lower achievement groups. Although increasing levels of perceive d parent support were associated with fewer externalizing symptoms for all achievement levels, the magnitude of this relationship weakened with increasing levels of achievement such that low-achieving students who perceive low pare ntal support are more at-risk for manifesting additional symptoms of externalizing symptoms than stud ents who perceive the same level of parent support but who have average or high ach ievement. Similarly, students with high achievement appear to be the least at-risk for manifesting externalizing psychopathology in the face of low perceptions of social support from parents. These findings are consistent with literature that has demonstrated the bu ffering effects of achievement among various psychological outcomes (Car lton et al., 2008). Such a relationship highlights the importance of parental s upport for mitigating against externalizing
93 symptomatology, particularly with low ach ieving students who are already at an increased risk for developing these types of issues. Implications for School Psychologists Early adolescence is a time of tremendous growth and change. It can also be a time of stress and uncertainty that can lead to increasing levels of both internalizing and externalizing distress for some adolescents. Fi ndings from this study are consistent with findings from available literature that exemp lify the saliency of supportive relationships to student mental health (e.g., Armstrong & Boothroyd, 2008; Suldo et al., 2009). Not only are supportive relationshi ps an important predictor of decreased psychopathology, but such relationships are also associated with elevations in student s life satisfaction and hold true regardless of gender. Students who present with low levels of psychopathology but are high on positive indicators of self-p erceived wellness (i.e., SWB) have been shown to demonstrate superior functioning within the areas of achievement, perceived academic abilities, motivation, social func tioning, and overall physical health when compared to their peers with similar perceptions of welln ess, but higher symptoms of psychological distress (Suldo & Schaffer, 2008). Such findings underscore the importance of fostering complete mental heal th in students. Relevant to the current studys findings that highlight the importanc e of supportive social relationships in cultivating complete mental health within students, school psychologists have a unique role in promoting such positive, supportiv e relationships within the school setting.
94 Prevention Given the strong association between percei ved social support and life satisfaction (in comparison to internalizing and externa lizing symptomatology), in combination with important academic correlates of life satis faction (e.g., achievement and appraisals of school satisfaction; Suldo et al., 2006), promoting positive, supportive relationships in school may serve to prevent both mental h ealth and school-related problems. Moreover, given that calls have been made for educator s and psychologists to a ttend to strengths and overall wellness in students (Maddux et al., 2004; NASP, 2006), school psychologists have a responsibility to help cultivate positive social relationships due to their links with increased wellness (and not just simply diminished psychopathology). School psychologists have been charged with promoti ng such wellness in students in order to inform prevention efforts for parents and educators. Such prevention efforts might begi n with schooland/or classroom-wide screenings to assess students levels of perceived support fr om classmates and teachers, which would be a helpful early identificati on tool for students with less than optimal levels of perceived support (i.e., failure to demonstrate a perfect score of on scales measuring the aforementioned support sources). Next steps should include organizing trainings and in-services targeted at increas ing teachers awareness of the importance of providing high levels of social support with in their classrooms, as well as outlining general strategies for increas ing students levels of perc eived support may also be an important role for school-based practitioners.
95 Additionally, given the particular importa nce of parent supp ort in relation to positive student mental health outcomes, communicating the importance of the presence of supportive relationships in the home envir onment (namely, from parents) is also an important preventative step. Initial communica tion can be accomplished by utilizing preexisting school-parent-community linkages, but should eventually be supplemented with targeted opportunities addressi ng ways for parents to enhanc e parent-child relationships (to be discussed in subsequent section). Su ch linkages may include, but are not limited to, newsletters from parent-teacher organizati ons, parent-teacher conferences, open school board meetings, school newspapers in-service training for pare nts, and school web sites. Intervention Regarding intervention, school psyc hologists should aim to provide recommendations (and potentially, ongoing su pport via trainings observations, and feedback) for increasing social support within classrooms and/or identified target peer groups in which support was perceived to be lo w. Such interventions can occur at either the universal (e.g., school), secondary (e.g., targ eted classroom or peer group), or tertiary (e.g., individual students needs and percepti ons) levels of a Response to Intervention (RTI) service delivery m odel. With regard to intervening to effect changes in teachers level of social support, Suldo and colleagues (2009) qualitative study of behaviors perceived to communicate teacher support (e.g., eliciting student fee dback about teaching style and students understanding of academic material using diverse teaching strategies, conveying an interest in student wellness, and taking action to improve students moods and emotional states) serves as a helpful resource for planning such interventions.
96 To date, there are no published studies describing specific behaviors students perceive as supportive from their classmat es. Thus, school psychologists have little direction as to how teachers can cultivate supportive peer relationships within their classrooms. One suggestion stems from res earch conducted by Carter and colleagues (2005) which found that students engage in so cial interactions mu ch more frequently when working with two classmates as compared to one. Such findings are consistent with research on cooperative learning environm ents. Cooperative learning exists when students work together to achieve join t learning groups (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1992). Such an environment encourages student interaction and f acilitates students tendency to (1) give and receive help and fee dback (i.e., appraisal support), (2) exchange resources and information (i.e., instrumental and informational support), (3) engage in effective teamwork, and (4) create and maintain positive interpersonal relationships (i.e., emotional support; Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Johnson & Johnson, 1997). As such, it may be beneficial for school psychologists to encourage teachers to create cooperative learning environments within their classroom s. This can be done by physically arranging student desks into learning groups or by creati ng student teams that students must work with for a specified period of time or activit y. Importantly, teachers must be advised to carefully monitor groups to ensure that positive student-student interactions are occurring. Modeling supportive inte ractions should also be an important component of classroom prevention/intervention efforts. Warm, positive supportive behaviors can be modeled by the teacher, but may have the mo st impact when performed by students
97 themselves (such as within, and as a result of, group counseling sessi ons targeting social skills). Of note, practitioners must be cogni zant of the deleterious influence classmate support apparently has on externalizing be haviors in low-achieving students. Sharing such information with teachers and collabora ting to problem-solve classmate attention (potentially perceived as suppor t) for acting out behaviors in low-achieving classrooms is essential to help mitigate the positive trend between classmate support and externalizing behaviors in this population. While a supportive relationship between students and their teachers and classmates is central to promoting and ensuring positive school outcomes (e.g., Rosenfeld, Richman, and Bowen, 2000) and di minished psychopathology, results from this study also underscored the significance of parental support, above and beyond that of support perceived from teachers and classmates in student mental health problems and mental wellness. As such, practitioners must work to create strong fa mily connections in order to help ensure that pa rents and guardians understand the important implications of fostering positive social relationships with their children. Such connections could be facilitated by parent traini ngs and/or support groups, led by school psychologists, in which parents would receive specific stra tegies for fosteri ng healthy, supportive relationships with their children. Positive parent-child relationships can be enhanced when parents help their families to achieve a good balance between work, play, and love (Patterson & Forgatch, 2005). Parents can inadvertently miss out on op portunities to forge closer relationships
98 by not allowing their child to help them with various tasks and chores (i.e., work experiences). Unloading groceries after goi ng to the store is a specific example of something that adolescents can and should as sist with. Further, providing adolescents with household chores or recommending jobs outside the home are ways to improve work-related skills and cultivate responsibility. Playtime fosters positive, happy relationshi ps and gives an opportunity for both parents and adolescents to have fun and relax during interaction. Examples of playrelated activities might include incorporati ng a family game night into the weekly schedule, or exposing on e-another to particular music genr es or dance steps of interest. School psychologists should remind parents that the type of play is not of crucial importance, rather the emphasis should be placed on enjoying the company of oneanother. Supportive relationships can also be enha nced when parents teach and model how to build positive relationships in which love can grow. This includes demonstrations of verbal (e.g., I love you) a nd non-verbal (e.g., a hug or warm smile) expressions of love and care. Parents can also communicate love by taking time out of their busy schedules to spend one-on-one time with their children. Wh ether such time is spent taking a walk around the neighborhood or setting aside a movie night, it is important that psychologists encourage parents to spend uninterrupted, quality time with their children. Limitations There are a few internal a nd external limitations of th e current study that warrant discussion at this time. First, the majority of variables within the current study were
99 assessed via self-report only. While self-reports are the predominant source of data in the social and behavioral sciences issues related to instrument structure, setting, and face validity undermine their integrity (Schwarz, 1999; Vaughn & Howard, 2005). Nonetheless, costbenefit analyses support the use of self-report measures as the most efficient measurement approach available (Huizinga, 1991). Another limitation that is noteworthy pertains to the s ources of support that were analyzed in this study. Specifically, this study ne glected to address an important source of social support identified by th e literaturenamely school sup port. While teachers are an important source of school support, other in fluences such as school policies, school resources, and support from non-instructional sta ff have been shown to lead to beneficial outcomes (e.g., higher GPA and lower drop-out rates) for youth (DeGarmo & Martinez, 2006; Markward, McMillan, & Markward, 2003). T hus, it would have been desirable to include other important school-based sour ces of support within the current study. However, information regarding perceived sc hool-level support was not collected by the research team that created the now-archival dataset, and thus, school support could not be analyzed within the current study. A third set of limitations relate to the f act that participants were only selected from one middle school in one school district Regarding external validity, the population and ecological transferability of the research is thus minimized (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003). Population validity concerns genera lizing results from the sample to the population from which it was drawn (Gall, Bo rg, & Gall, 2006). Within the current study, characteristics unique to the sample populati on have limited the extent that conclusions
100 drawn can be transferred to the school populati on as a whole. Ecologica l validity refers to the researchers abil ity to generalize the results of a study acro ss diverse situations, settings, or conditions (Gall et al., 2006). When ecological validity is threatened, the researcher must be careful to specify the se tting from which participants were drawn so that erroneous conclusions are not made. Generalizations of results to lower SES areas or more rural communities may not be appropriate as this middle school is located in a relatively middle-to-high SES, urban school district. Future Directions The current study has added to the literatu re by helping to delineate the complex relationships among social suppor t and indicators of student mental health. Specifically, this study has expanded upon extant literature which has primarily focused on how social support contributes to psychopathology by broa dening the scope of mental health to include an indicator of wellness (i.e., life satisfaction). Mo reover, the current study has identified important trends in the relations hip between social support and externalizing behaviors by varying levels of achievement. Specifically, findings support the moderating role of achievement in the relationship be tween both parent and classmate support and adolescent externalizing behavior. Additional studies examining the associations between perceived social support, mental health, and achievement will assist in providing a more complete picture of psychological functioning and buffers against the negative effects of deficits within students social environment(s). There are several logical directions for future inquiry. First, there have been suggestions that early adolescen ce could be an ideal time to prevent the development of
101 negative mental health outcomes in later adol escence, and facilitate a healthy trajectory of psychological development (Colarossi & Eccles, 2003). Thus, continuing in the quest to understand the role of social support on various outcomes in this developmental time period will be especially important as the literature begins to inform prevention efforts in schools as well as clinical settings. However, before such prevention (and subsequent intervention efforts) can be outlined, future research must first, establish a causal link between social support and me ntal health. Specifically, longitudinal studies that permit researchers to determine if specific social support sources predic t changes in student mental health over time must be conduc ted. Preliminary research addressing such relationships found that initial levels of mother and child reports of externalizing symptoms in Norwegian adolescents predicte d subsequent changes in perceived support from parents, but mother and child reports of parent support did not predict changes in early adolescent externalizing behaviors (Dan ielson et al., 2009). Such findings suggest that adolescent behavior problems drive ch anges in the quality of parentadolescent relationships but that parent support does not drive changes in early adolescent behavior problems. Further research should attempt to replicate these findings with American adolescents, as well as examine these relati onships within the context of both classmate and teacher support, as well. Further, to help clarify the inconsistent findings regarding th e moderating role of gender, it may be of interest for research ers to separate parent support by male and female caregiver, and then, reexamine the re lationships among per ceptions of social support and mental health outcomes. Support for such an undertaking includes a recent
102 mixed-methods study on teacher support in which gender differences were observed regarding the types of teacher behaviors that students pe rceived as supportive when unique methodologies were employed (Suldo et al., 2009). Specifically, within the qualitative portion, boys and girls often em phasized different teacher behaviors as conveying low and high levels of support (alth ough such conclusions were not reflected within the quantitative portion of the same study). These findings indi cate there might be important, albeit subtle, differences that might be elucidated with more precise methods of inquiry. Such an explanation would help to eliminate the potential confound mixedparent groups may be contri buting to the relationshi p, which could be masking moderating effects. Finally, the literature w ould benefit from further research examining how perceptions of social suppor t are derived. Such clarifica tion would help to determine exactly where prevention and intervention effort s might be targeted (e.g., the child him or herself, or the potential sour ce of support). Research on temperament (i.e., aspects of an individual's personality, which are often regarded as innate rather than learned; Goldsmith, Buss, & Lemery, 1997)suggests that biological f actors inherent to children may influence their levels of perceived so cial support. Specifi cally, children with a difficult temperament (e.g., high in impulsivity, neuroticism, and introversion) may elicit less social support from caregiv ers and peers than youth with an easier temperament (e.g., high in agreeableness and conscientiousness) Additionally, some childrens cognitive styles may contribute to a propensity to perceive higher (or lowe r) levels of support, regardless of the amount of support that is actually available to them. Along the same
103 lines, it would be worthwhile to examine how mental health probl ems affect students perceptions of support, given the fact that mental health problems (e.g., depression) have been shown to negatively influence adolescents perceptions about themselves, their world, and their future (Beck, 1976). If percep tions of support indeed have a biological component, or are negatively influenced by me ntal health problems, implications would indicate that interven tions should be targeted at modifying faulty student perceptions and aversive behaviors, rather th an intervening at the social support level to increase supportive behaviors. Such a delineation would help to inform whether efforts should be directed at (a) actually increasing pa rent, teacher, and classmate support (although students may not perceive such behaviors as supportive due to biological predispositions or cognitive distortions), (b) improving childrens behavior in such a way that social support is elicited and provided more readily fr om caregivers and/or peers, or (c) whether students would most benefit from interventi ons designed to modify perceptions of the various available sources of support and the behaviors they perceive to be supportive to include a more accurate appraisal of received social support.
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139 Appendix A: Demographics Form ID # ______________Spring 2006 Birthdate _______________ (month) (day) (year) PLEASE READ EACH QUESTION AND CIRCLE ONE ANSWER PER QUESTION: 1. I am in grade: 6 7 8 2. My gender is: Male Female 3. Do you receive free or reduced lunch? Yes No 4. My race/ethnic identity is: a. American Indian or Alaska Native e. Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander b. Asian f. White c. Black or African American g. Multi-racial (please specify):______________________ d. Hispanic or Latino h. Other (please specify):___________________________ 5. My biological parents are: a. Married d. Never married b. Divorced e. Never married but living together c. Separated f. Widowed 6. On average, how much time per week do you spend doing your homework: a. Less than 1 hour e. From 10 hours to less than 15 hours b. From 1 hour to less than 3 hours f. From 15 hours to less than 20 hours c. From 3 hours to less than 5 hours g. From 20 hours to less than 25 hours d. From 5 hours to less than 10 hours h. 25 hours or more
Appendix A: (Continued) Sample Questions: Never Almost Never Sometimes Fairly Often Very Often 1. I go to the beach 1 2 3 4 5 Strongly Disagree Disagree Not Sure Agree Strongly Agree 2. Going to the beach is fun 1 2 3 4 5 140
141 Appendix B: Child and Adoles cent Social Support Scale (CASSS, Malecki, Demaray, & Elliot, 2000) On this page, please respond to sentences about some form of support or help that you might get from either a parent, a teacher, or classmates. Read each sentence carefully and respond to them honestly. Rate how often you receive the support described Do not skip any sentences. Thank you! My Parent(s) Never Almost Neve r Some of the Time Most of the Time Almost Al w a ys Always 1 show they are proud of me. 1 2 3 4 5 6 2 understand me. 1 2 3 4 5 6 3 listen to me when I need to talk. 1 2 3 4 5 6 4 make suggestions when I don't know what to do. 1 2 3 4 5 6 5 give me good advice. 1 2 3 4 5 6 6 help me solve problems by giving me information. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 tell me I did a good job when I do something well. 1 2 3 4 5 6 8 nicely tell me when I make mistakes. 1 2 3 4 5 6 9 reward me when I've done something well. 1 2 3 4 5 6 10 help me practice my activities. 1 2 3 4 5 6 11 take time to help me decide things. 1 2 3 4 5 6 12 get me many of the things I need. 1 2 3 4 5 6 My Teacher(s) Never Almost Never Some o f th e Most of the Almost Alwa y s Always 13 cares about me. 1 2 3 4 5 6 14 treats me fairly. 1 2 3 4 5 6 15 makes it okay to ask questions. 1 2 3 4 5 6 16 explains things that I don't understand. 1 2 3 4 5 6 17 shows me how to do things. 1 2 3 4 5 6 18 helps me solve problems by giving me information. 1 2 3 4 5 6 19 tells me I did a good job when I've done something well. 1 2 3 4 5 6 20 nicely tells me when I make mistakes. 1 2 3 4 5 6 21 tells me how well I do on tasks. 1 2 3 4 5 6 22 makes sure I have what I need for school. 1 2 3 4 5 6
142 Appendix B: (Continued) 23 takes time to help me learn to do something well. 1 2 3 4 5 6 24 spends time with me when I need help. 1 2 3 4 5 6 My Classmates Never Almost Never Some o f th e Most of the Almost Alwa y s Always 25 treat me nicely. 1 2 3 4 5 6 26 like most of my ideas and opinions. 1 2 3 4 5 6 27 pay attention to me. 1 2 3 4 5 6 28 give me ideas when I don't know what to do. 1 2 3 4 5 6 29 give me information so I can learn new things. 1 2 3 4 5 6 30 give me good advice. 1 2 3 4 5 6 31 tell me I did a good job when I've done something well. 1 2 3 4 5 6 32 nicely tell me when I make mistakes. 1 2 3 4 5 6 33 notice when I have worked hard. 1 2 3 4 5 6 34 ask me to join activities. 1 2 3 4 5 6 35 spend time doing things with me. 1 2 3 4 5 6 36 help me with project s in class. 1 2 3 4 5 6
Appendix C: Students Life Satisfaction Scale (Huebner, 1991b) We would like to know what thoughts about life you've had during the past several weeks Think about how you spend each day a nd night and then think about how your life has been during most of this time. Here are some questions that ask you to indicate your satisfaction with life. In answering each statement, circle a number from ( 1) to (6) where (1) indicates you strongly dis agree with the statement and ( 6) indicates you strongly agree with the statement. Strongly Disa g ree Mostly Disa g ree Mildly Disagree Mildly Agree Mostly Agree Strongly Agree 1. My life is going well 1 2 3 4 5 6 2. My life is just right 1 2 3 4 5 6 3. I would like to change many things in my life 1 2 3 4 5 6 4. I wish I had a different kind of life 1 2 3 4 5 6 5. I have a good life 1 2 3 4 5 6 6. I have what I want in life 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. My life is better than most kids' 1 2 3 4 5 6 143
144 Appendix D: Parent Consent Form Dear Parent or Caregiver: This letter provides information about a research study that will be conducted at Liberty Middle School by investigators from the University of South Florida. Our goal in conducting the study is to determine the effect of students psychological wellness on their school performance, physical health, and social relationships. Who We Are : The research team consists of Shannon Suldo, Ph.D., a professor in the School Psychology Program at the University of South Florida (USF), and several doctoral students in the USF College of Education. We are planning the study in cooperation with the principal of Liberty Middle School (LMS) to make sure that the study provides information that will be useful to the school. Why We are Requesting Your Childs Participation : This study is being conducted as part of a project entitled, Subjective WellBeing of Middle School Students. Your child is being asked to participate because he or she is a student at Liberty. Why Your Child Should Participate : We need to learn more about what leads to happiness and health during the pre-teen years! The information that we collect from students may help increase our overall awareness of the importance of monitoring students happiness during adolescence. In addition, group-level results of the study will be shared with the teachers and administrators at LMS in order to increase their knowledge of the relationship between specific school experiences and psychological wellness in students. Please note neither you nor your child will be paid for your childs participation in the study. However, all students who participate in the study will be entered into a drawing for one of several gift certificates. What Participation Requires : If your child is given permission to participate in the study, he or she will be asked to complete several paper-and-pencil questionnaires. These surveys will ask about your childs thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes towards school, teachers, classmates, family, and life in general. The surveys will also ask about your childs physical health. Completion is expected to take your child between 45 and 60 minutes. We will personally administer th e questionnaires at LMS, during regular school hours, to large groups of students who have parent permission to participate. Participation will occur during one class period this school year. If your child is at LMS next year, your child will be asked to complete the same surveys again so that we can examine change over time. In total, participation will take about one hour of your childs time each year. Another part of participati on involves a review of your childs school records. Under the supervision of school administrators, we will retrieve the following information about your child: grade point average, FCAT scores, attendance, and history of discipline referrals. Finally, one of your childs teachers will be asked to complete a brief rating scale about your childs behavior at school.
145 Appendix D: (Continued) Please Note : Your decision to allow your child to participate in this research study must be completely voluntary. You are free to allow your child to participate in this research study or to withdraw him or her at any time. Your decision to participate, not to participate, or to withdraw participation at any point during the study will in no way affect your childs student status, his or her grades, or your relationship with LMS, USF, or any other party. Confidentiality of Your Childs Responses : There is minimal risk to your child for participating in this research. We will be present during administration of the questionnaires in order to provide assistance to your child if he or she has any questions or concerns. Additionally, school guidance counselors will be available to students in the unlikely event that your child becomes emotionally distressed while completing the measures. Your childs privacy and research records will be kept confidential to the extent of the law. Authorized research personnel, employees of the Department of Health and Human Services, the USF Institutional Review Board and its staff, and other individuals acting on behalf of USF may inspect the records from this research project, but your childs individual responses will not be shared with school system personnel or anyone other than us and our research assistants. Your childs completed questionnaires will be assigned a code number to protect the confidentiality of his or her responses. Only we will have access to the locked file cabinet stored at USF that will contain: 1) all records linking code numbers to participants names, and 2) all information gathered from school records. All records from the study (completed surveys, information from school records) will be destroyed in four y ears. Please note that although your childs specific responses on the questionnaires will not be shared with school staff, if your child indicates that he or she intends to harm him or herself, we will contact district mental health counselors to ensure your childs safety. What Well Do With Your Childs Responses : We plan to use the information from this study to inform educators and psychologists about the relationship between students psychological wellness (particularly their subjective well-being, also referred to as happiness) and their school performance, physical health, and social relationships. The results of this study may be published. Howe ver, the data obtained from your child will be combined with data from other people in the publication. The published results will not include your childs name or any other information that would in any way personally identify your child. Questions? If you have any questions about this research study, please contact Dr. Suldo at (813) 974-2223. If you have questions about your childs rights as a person who is taking part in a research study, you may contact a member of the Division of Research Compliance of the USF at (813) 974-9343. Want Your Child to Participate? To permit your child to participate in this study, please complete the attached consent form and have your child turn it in to his or her homeroom teacher.
146 Appendix D: (Continued) Sincerely, Shannon Suldo, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of School Psychology Department of Psychological and Social Foundations -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Consent for Child to Take Part in this Research Study I freely give my permission to let my child take part in this study. I understand that this is research. I have received a copy of this letter and consent form for my records. ________________________________ ________________ Printed name of child Grade level of child ___________________________ ________________________________ Signature of parent of Printed name of parent child taking part in the study ____________ ____________ Date Date Statement of Person Obtaining Informed Consent I certify that participants have been provided with an informed consent form that has been approved by the University of South Floridas Institutional Review Board and that explains the nature, demands, risks, and benefits involved in participating in this study. I further certify that a phone number has been provided in the event of additional questions. ________________________________ ______________________________ Signature of person obtaining consent Printed name of person obtaining consent _____________ ____________ Date Date
147 Appendix E: Student Assent Form Hello! Today you will be asked to take part in a research study by filling out several surveys. Our goal in conducting the study is to determine the effect of students mental health on their school performance, physical health, and social relationships. Who We Are : The research team is led by Sh annon Suldo, Ph.D., a professor in the School Psychology Program at the University of South Florida (USF). Several doctoral students in the USF College of Education are on the team. We are working with your principal to make sure this study will be helpful to your school. Why We Are Asking You to Take Part in the Study : This study is part of a project called, Subjective Well-Being of Middle School Students. You are being asked to take part because you are a student at Liberty Middle School (LMS). Why You Should Take Part in the Study : We need to learn mo re about what leads to happiness and health during the pre-teen year s! The information that we collect may help us better understand why we should monitor students happiness. In addition, results from the study will be shared w ith LMS to show them how happiness is related to school grades and behavior, physical health, and social relationships. You will not be paid for taking part in the study. Filling Out the Surveys : These surveys will ask you about your thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes towards school, family, and life in general. The surveys will also ask about your physical health. It will proba bly take between 45 and 60 minutes to fill out the surveys. We will also ask you to complete these surveys again one year from now. What Else Will Happen if You Are in the Study : If you choose to take part in the study, we will look at some of your school recordsgrades, discipline record, attendance, and FCAT scores. We will gath er this information under the guidance of school administrators. Please Note : Your involvement in this study is voluntary (your choice). By signing this form, you are agreeing to take part in this study. Your decision to take part, not to take part, or to stop taking part in the study at any time will not affect your student status or your grades; you will not be punished in any way. If you choose not to take part, it will not affect your relationship with LMS, USF, or anyone else. Privacy of Your Responses : Your school guidance counselors are also on hand in case you become upset. Your privacy and re search records will be kept confidential (private, secret) to the extent of the law. People approved to do research at USF, people who work for the Department of Health and Human Services, the USF Institutional Review Board, a nd its staff, and other indi viduals acting on behalf of USF may look at the records from this res earch project. Howe ver, your individual
148 Appendix E: (Continued) responses will not be shared with people in the school system or anyone other than us and our research assistants. Your completed surveys will be given a code number to protect the privacy of your responses. Only we will have the ability to open the locked file cabinet stored at USF that will contain: 1) all records linking code numbers to names, and 2) all information ga thered from school r ecords. All records from the study (completed surveys, in formation from school records) will be destroyed in four years. Again, your specific responses w ill not be shared with school staff. However, if you respond on the survey s that you plan to ha rm yourself, we will let district counselors know in order to make sure you are safe. What Well Do With Your Responses : We plan to use the information from this study to let others know about how students happiness is related to school grades, physical health, and social relationships. The results of this study may be published. However, your responses will be combined with other students responses in the publication. The published results will not include your name or any other information that would in any way identify you. Questions? If you have any questions about th is research study, please raise your hand now or at any point during the study. Also, you may contact us later at (813) 974-2223 (Dr. Suldo). If you have questions about your rights as a person who is taking part in a research study, contact a member of the Division of Research Compliance of the USF at (813) 974-9343. Also call the Florida Department of Health, Review Council for Human Subjects at 1-850-245-4585 or toll free at 1-866433-2775. Thank you for taking the time to take part in this study. Sincerely, Shannon Suldo, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of School Psychology Department of Psychological and Social Foundations ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
149 Appendix E: (Continued) Assent to Take Part in this Research Study I give my permission to take part in this st udy. I understand that this is research. I have received a copy of this letter and assent form. ________________________________ ________________________________ Signature of child Printed name of child taking part in the study ____________ ____________ Date Date Statement of Person Obtaining Informed Consent I certify that participants have been provided with an informed consent form that has been approved by the University of South Fl oridas Institutional Re view Board and that explains the nature, demands, risk s, and benefits involved in pa rticipating in this study. I further certify that a phone number has b een provided in the event of additional questions. ________________________________ ________________________________ Signature of person obtaining consent Pr inted name of person obtaining consent _____________ ____________ Date Date
About the Author Tiffany White is a doctoral student in the School Psychology program at the University of South Florida. Her interest s pertain to promoting childrens wellness through school-based mental health services. Pa rticularly, she is interested in how school psychologists can effectively develop and main tain collaborative relationships between home, school, and community agencies to addr ess the mental health and school success of children and adolescents. It is her belief this can be mo st effectively done through the promotion of expanded school mental health pr ograms and services. Her research focuses on how to promote and enhance the healthy psychological development of school-aged students and reduce mental health barri ers to learning using a positive psychology frameworka shift from the traditional di sease model toward st rengths and wellness promotion. Appropriately, this asset-based appr oach to youth promotion aligns well with the goals of the positive psychology movement and best practice recommendations for the field of school psychology.