Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) Exploring the Roles of Ethnicity and Mental Health Problems in School Contact: Whose Parents Are More Likely to be Communicated with? (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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591P (WITHDRAWN) Exploring the Roles of Ethnicity and Mental Health Problems in School Contact: Whose Parents Are More Likely to be Communicated with?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Shaojie Pan, MSW, Doctoral Student, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY
Background: School may contact parents or guardians due to child’s progress, notifications about special events, and problems the child has in school. Limited research has explored the patterns of school contact among different ethnic groups, although research on similar topics (e.g. school discipline) found disparities across races or ethnicities. Although it is assumed that mental health problems may increase the odds of school contact through exerting influences on students’ academic performance and problematic behaviors, research that has focused on this topic is sparse. Based on an ecological perspective, this study examines environmental factors that contribute to school contact regarding children’s problems, especially the roles of race/ethnicity and mental health disorders.

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.