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Mental Health and School Functioning for Girls in the Child Welfare System: the Mediating Role of Future Orientation and School Engagement

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Publication details

JournalSchool Mental Health
DateAccepted/In press - 4 Jan 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jan 2017
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jun 2017
Issue number2
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)194-204
Early online date11/01/17
Original languageEnglish


This study investigated the association between mental health problems and academic and behavioral school functioning for adolescent girls in the child welfare system and determined whether school engagement and future orientation meditated the relationship. Participants were 231 girls aged between 12 and 19 who had been involved with the child welfare system. Results indicated that 39% of girls reported depressive symptoms in the clinical range and 54% reported posttraumatic symptoms in the clinical range. The most common school functioning problems reported were failing a class (41%) and physical fights with other students (35%). Participants reported a mean number of 1.7 school functioning problems. Higher levels of depression and PTSD were significantly associated with more school functioning problems. School engagement fully mediated the relationship between depression and school functioning and between PTSD and school functioning, both models controlling for age, race, and placement stability. Future orientation was not significantly associated with school functioning problems at the bivariate level. Findings suggest that school engagement is a potentially modifiable target for interventions aiming to ameliorate the negative influence of mental health problems on school functioning for adolescent girls with histories of abuse or neglect.

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© 2017, The Author(s).

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