Methods: This study used data from 2018 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), which was a cross-sectional survey aiming to explore both individual and environmental factors related to children’s wellbeing. School-aged children ranging from 6 to 17 years old (N = 17,412) were included into analysis. Multivariate logistic regression was performed to examine personal-, family-, and community-level correlates with school contact. Particularly, the predicting roles of children’s ethnicity and mental health status on school contact were investigated. The original multivariate regression model was extended by adding interaction items between children’s ethnicity and mental health status so that the potential moderation effects would be identified.
Results: Results from logistic regression show that adverse childhood experience (OR = 1.14, p < 0.001), arguing too much (OR = 1.34, p < 0.001), bullying (OR = 1.30, p < 0.001), being bullied (OR = 1.39, p < 0.001), physical problems (OR = 1.26, p < 0.001), and disability status (OR = 1.48, p < 0.001) were associated with higher probability of school contact, while family and community correlates were insignificant. Moreover, findings suggest that parents or guardians of African American students (OR = 2.02, p < 0.001), Non-white Hispanic students (OR = 1.33, p < 0.01), and students with mental health disorders (OR = 2.04, p < 0.001) were more likely to be contacted by school for children’s problems. In contrary to our hypothesis, moderation analysis exhibited that the impacts of mental health disorders on school contact were less pronounced among African American students than White students.
Conclusions and Implications: This research contributes to existing literature by examining disparities in school contact due to mental health disorders and ethnicity. Specifically, parents or guardians of ethnic minority students and students with mental disorders are more likely to have teachers or administrators communicate with them about their children’s problems at school. Additionally, the impacts of mental disorders on school contact are abated among African American students, which may attribute to school staffs’ low expectation on African American students and covert biases on their parents. Based on these findings, policies and interventions should be improved to deal with the unequal treatment given to ethnic minority students and students with mental health problems in school systems. In addition, school social workers can educate teachers and administrators to attenuate the impacts of implicit ethnic biases on school contact behaviors.