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Mental health and educational experiences among Black youth: A latent class analysis

Assistant Professor Theda Rose is the lead author of the article "Mental health and educational experiences among Black youth: A latent class analysis" that's been published by the Journal of Youth & Adolescence. The SSW's Nadine Finigan-Carr, a research assistant professor, is also a co-author of the research.

Ongoing efforts are needed to address disparities in the educational experiences of Black adolescents. Nationally, these youth experience differential achievement and problematic retention, suspension, and expulsion rates as well as less connection to the school environment, which, in turn, has negative implications for full realization of their life and economic potential.

During adolescence, psychosocial changes include the development of positive mental health as well as the emergence of mental illnesses. Traditionally, there has been a prevailing emphasis on the absence of mental illness as a way to conceptualize mental health. This narrower conceptualization does not lend itself to a full inclusion of the positive psychosocial changes adolescents’ experience.

The current research was birthed out of a desire to utilize a more comprehensive model of mental health, including both subjective wellbeing and psychopathology, to explore associations between mental health and the educational experiences of Black youth. Key findings from this study include that higher school bonding is strongly associated with having better mental health, and that those with poor mental health experience other problematic school issues such as grade retention and school suspensions.

There has been much study on school bonding. However, its association to positive mental health among Black youth is important, as school bonding, an aspect of overall school engagement, is related to other school factors such as achievement, and can be a key intervention target. The results of the study are relevant to mental health and education professionals as well as those in the fields of public health and positive youth development as we continue to explore, develop, and refine culturally relevant school and community-based interventions that address subjective wellbeing, mental health problems, and improved educational experiences among Black youth. As adolescence is a critical period for intervention, these strategies are an essential part of an agenda to promote positive development among Black youth.

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