Individual and School Risk and Protective Factors Associated with Aggression and Anxiety in Rural Youths
Methods: The participants in this study included a sample of 4,321 (3,405 after list-wise deletion) racially and ethnically diverse youth (26.4% Native American, 25.9% White, 24.2% African American, 11.9% Hispanic/Latino, and 9.5% Mixed) from 28 schools. After obtaining parental consent, the School Success Profile-Plus was administered to participants electronically at their respective schools. A binary logistic regression model was created for each dependent variable.
Results: Overall, 39.3% of rural youth participating in this study reported high anxiety and 23.1% reported high externalizing behaviors. Significant risk factors associated with high anxiety included being female, receipt of free or reduced price lunch, parent-child conflict, negative peer relationships, friends’ negative behavior and discrimination experiences, while protective factors included school satisfaction, and ethnic identity. Significant risk factors for externalizing behaviors included being female, parent child-conflict, and negative peer relationships, while school satisfaction was a protective factor. A number of interesting interaction effects emerged. For example, student discrimination experiences moderated the impact of teacher turnover on externalizing behaviors.
Conclusion and Implications: There was a high prevalence of anxiety and externalizing problems in this sample. This study identifies several significant risk and protective factors that exacerbate or mitigate these mental health issues. Results highlight the significant negative impact that family problems and social factors can have on adolescent mental health, thereby identifying areas for intervention. Building school satisfaction and fostering ethnic identity are two protective pathways for prevention scientists to explore in future programming.
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Witherspoon, D., & Ennett, S. (2011). Stability and change in rural youths’ educational outcomes through the middle and high school years. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40(9), 1077-1090.