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Laura Adams

Mentor Department



Given that adolescents spend majority of their lives in school, nearly seven hours every day, it is crucial to investigate how their relationship with their school impacts developmental outcomes. Key features of school connectedness, such as support and acceptance from the community, serve as protective factors against development of depression and anxiety symptoms during adolescence (Waters et al., 2009; Joyce & Early, 2014). Further, longitudinal research suggests that school connectedness is negatively correlated with behavioral problems and psychopathology during the adolescent period (Lester et al., 2013; Loukaset al., 2009). Although these relationships have been established, extant research has yet to investigate potential developmental pathways among these constructs. Therefore, the current study sought to examine depressive and anxiety symptoms as mediators of the relationship between school connectedness and later problem behavior.Data were drawn from the Predictors of Anxiety and Depression During Adolescence (PANDA) Project(Ohannessian & Vannucci, 2018), which surveyed adolescents from five Northeastern State middle schools in fall 2016 (T1; Mage=12.75; SD=.71; 51% female), spring 2017 (T2), and fall 2017 (T3).Adolescents reported on depressive and social anxiety symptoms, feeling of school connectedness, and problem behaviors. The Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale for Children (Weissman etal., 1980) was used to measure adolescent depressive symptoms (αT1=.91); the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders (Birmaher et al., 1999) was used to assess social anxiety (αT1=.87); and a school connectedness scale measured school connectedness (αT1=.71). Adolescent also reported on the frequency in which they engaged in a variety of risk behaviors (e.g., start physical fights; αT1=.95)(American Psychiatric Association, 2013).Structural equation modeling was used to examine whether depressive and anxiety symptoms (T2)mediated the relationship between school connectedness (T1) and later problem behavior (T3). Age,gender, and previous time points of all endogenous variables were controlled (Figure 1). Model results indicated that school connectedness negatively predicted later depressive and anxiety symptoms.However, only depressive symptoms in turn positively predicted later problem behavior. The direct effectof school connectedness to problem behavior 1.5 years later remained significant after accounting for the mediated pathways, suggesting that depressive symptoms partially mediated this effect.These findings highlight a developmental pathway from school connectedness to later problem behavior through adolescents’ depressive symptoms. Findings may aid schools in identifying at-risk youth for developing later emotional and behavioral problems and point to the importance of promoting school connectedness among young adolescents.


Authors: Ashley Adams, Victoria Powers, Yessenia Chavez, Jake Solka, Laura Finan, Christine Ohannessian

Longitudinal Associations Between School Connectedness and Adjustment Problems During Adolescence

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