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July 21, 2008

Study of Baltimore youth ties academic struggles, depression

A new study of students in Baltimore concludes that black first-graders -- especially girls -- who are already struggling academically are at a higher risk of experiencing depression by middle school.

Psychologists examined data for 474 African-American boys and girls in nine Baltimore public schools. The students were assessed in first, sixth and seventh grades. 

The study’s findings are in the July issue of the Journal of Counseling Psychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association. According to the association, this is the first time psychologists have examined the link between academic performance and depression among African-American children living in an urban setting.

The study showed that "girls tend to internalize academic problems more than boys," according to Keith Herman, the study's lead author. “It is critical for counselors and psychologists who are working with underachieving African-American youth to find ways to highlight their nonacademic skills, such as social, music or art abilities, and work with their parents and teachers to do the same. This may help improve their present and future emotional well-being.”

For more on the study's methodology and findings, keep reading.

From an American Psychological Association news release: 

"The authors examined the students’ performance on a basic skills test administered in first grade to determine how well the students were doing in reading and mathematics. The first-graders were also asked how frequently they felt sad, anxious or upset. The authors compared these findings with the students’ self-reports of depressive symptoms after they had entered seventh grade. The authors noted that prior research found that depressive symptoms in children and adolescents predicted the likelihood of using mental health services, of contemplating suicide, and of being diagnosed with depression later in life.

"The authors found that the students who performed below average on the basic skills test in first grade were more likely to experience depressive symptoms by the time they had entered seventh grade, while controlling for conduct, attention and social problems.

"The authors also looked at data collected in sixth grade, which measured how much control the students felt they had over their academic, social and behavioral skills. Using this information, the researchers determined that first-graders who were struggling in school were most likely to believe that they had less influence over important outcomes in their life. These beliefs, in turn, served as risk factors for depressive symptoms. The negative effects of low academic skills on future self-beliefs were roughly twice as strong for girls as for boys."

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:03 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Baltimore City, Study, study!


Correlation or causation? It would be interesting to actually see the study. I learned from my marketing classes in college that you can make things say/mean just about anything.

It sounds like an initial plug for a program or to get funding for a program.

The reality is that for most people, academic performance matters. Are we to use this information as they suggest and help the students feel good about themselves for other things? Fine but at the end of the day, we still have to work on their academic performance. Or do we continue to water things down until the students perform well and they have nothing to worry about.

I am willing to bet that regardless of the "controls" put in place there are other issues in these childrens' lives that might lead to depression as well. Maybe they were anxious and low performing in first grade due to factors that were exasurbated by the time they were in middle school. This press release almost makes it sound like if they were not pressured to perform all would be well.

you sure are will to express strong opinions without as you note actually reading the study which is readily available at the given link...are we to value your strong opinions about a topic more that carefully considered and controlled research?

you ask, correlation or causation? how about both. what does causation mean? it means one variable precedes another, is higlyh correlated with it, and that we have ruled out other explanations. this is a study that establishes temporal precedence, correlation, and elimination of prominent other explanations. yet it of course it is only one study that is connected to a larger body of literature. all of this is what determines what gets considered as important causal factors.

there are multiple pathways to depression. this is just one. and the results imply not that we should pressure children to learn. quite the opposite. we should actually teach them to be academically competent. as some children will also perform better than others, we should also expand what we value in terms of academic skills.

"another teacher" x2 (but I didn't read the study).

The real question is, how many schools can now afford a school psychologist with the new budget structures???

The schools couldn't afford psychologists with the old budget structure either. Or if they had one s/he was there for so few hours and so many responsibilities the school had a psychologist in name only.

This article is a much needed explaination of the mental health needs of young people in general especially Baltimore. I would suggest that this is a good ammunition for more funding for the psychologist and my high school (Lake Clifton Campus) is implementing this soon. The implication that are drawn from the study places students at risk are in need and however the conclusion were drawn the mental health of youth need to be addressed.

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