The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Individual and School Risk and Protective Factors Associated with Depression and Self Esteem in Rural Youths

Saturday, January 19, 2013: 4:00 PM
Marina 5 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Caroline Robertson, MSW, Pre-Doctoral Fellow, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Paul R. Smokowski, PhD, Professor and Director, North Carolina Academic Center for Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Shenyang Guo, PhD, Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Katie Cotter, MSW, Pre-Doctoral Fellow, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Background and Purpose: There is minimal research on the mental health outcomes of low-income, rural youth. It is commonly assumed that rural living is less stressful than urban life, when in reality rural life has many risk factors absent in urban environments. These unique risk factors may serve to exacerbate mental health problems in youth. Therefore, the objective of this study is to explore the individual and school-related correlates of depression and self-esteem in youth residing in a low-income, ethnically diverse county in the rural south. The current research question is: What demographic, social, and school factors are associated with depression and self esteem?

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, results reveal that 30.1% of rural youth in the sample reported high levels of depression while 44.1% reported low self-esteem. Significant risk factors associated with depression include being female, receipt of free or reduced price lunch, parent-child conflict, negative peer relationships, friends’ negative behavior, and discrimination experiences, while protective factors include school satisfaction and parent support. Significant risk factors for low self-esteem include 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 depression.

Conclusion and Implications: There was a high prevalence of depression and low self esteem in this sample and the current research highlights the many risk and protective factors that influence these mental health issues. Results highlight the significant negative impact that family problems and negative social interactions, can have on adolescent mental health, thereby identifying areas for intervention. Although risk factors outweigh protective factors, it is important to identify and build upon the strengths of this unique and vulnerable population.