Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Using the Expectancy-Value Theory of Motivation to Predict Behavioral and Emotional Risk among High School Students

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Using the Expectancy-Value Theory of Motivation to Predict Behavioral and Emotional Risk among High School Students

Article excerpt

STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH AND BEHAVIORAL AND EMOTIONAL RISK IN SCHOOLS

The prevalence, costs, and consequences of mental health problems among school-age children and adolescents are staggering. A recent surveillance report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2013) found that approximately 20% of children suffer from mental health disorders each year and that the prevalence of such disorders increases with age throughout childhood and adolescence. Unfortunately, these estimates have remained relatively stable over the past decade (Costello, Mustillo, Erkanli, Keeler, & Angold, 2003), as most youth in need of mental health services do not receive appropriate intervention (Dowdy, Ritchey, & Kamphaus, 2010; Mills et al., 2006). The CDC (2013) report estimated that mental health disorders among children and adolescents cost society an astounding $250 billion per year. Even more alarming is the cost to our youth--among adolescents, suicide was the leading cause of death in 2010.

The mental health problems most often exhibited by children and adolescents are typically categorized as either behavioral problems or emotional problems (e.g., Frick, Bums, & Kamphaus, 2009). Behavioral problems are usually more overt and include externalizing difficulties such as conduct problems, hyperactivity, and aggression. In contrast, emotional problems are predominantly covert difficulties, including internalizing problems such as depression, anxiety, and somatization. Behavioral and emotional problems in childhood and adolescence have been linked consistently with poor academic outcomes (e.g., Lane, Barton-Arwood, Nelson, & Wehby, 2008). The association between behavioral and emotional problems and lower achievement has been found as early as kindergarten (Morris et al., 2013) and continues through the high school years (Breslau, Breslau, Miller, & Raykov, 2011). In addition, children and adolescents with behavioral and emotional disorders are more likely to drop out, face poor employment opportunities, and become involved in the juvenile justice system (Bradley, Doolittle, & Bartolotta, 2008). Longitudinally, externalizing behavior predicts poorer achievement, and poorer achievement then predicts the development of internalizing problems in a spiraling fashion that is difficult for some children and adolescents to escape (Masten et al., 2005).

These poor academic outcomes are evident even prior to the diagnosis of a disorder or disability. Students who are exhibiting signs of behavioral and emotional risk are also at risk for difficulties in school. For the purposes of this paper, behavioral and emotional risk includes the precursors to behavioral and emotional disorders, including maladaptive behaviors, emotions, or thought patterns that are atypical as compared to a normative sample of children or adolescents (O'Connell, Boat, & Warner, 2009). In recent reviews, subsyndromal risk levels for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; Balazs & Kereszteny, 2014) and depression (Bertha & Balazs, 2013) were associated with significant academic difficulties, indicating the need for early detection of risk for behavioral and emotional problems. Students with elevated levels of behavioral and emotional risk in general also have lower levels of reading and mathematics achievement as compared with their peers (Juechter, Dever, & Kamphaus, 2012), and these differences in academic achievement by behavioral and emotional risk status persist across school transitions (Lane, Oakes, Carter, & Messenger, 2015).

As behavioral and emotional risk predicts deleterious academic outcomes in much the same way as diagnosed behavioral and emotional disorders do, it is critical to identify at-risk children and adolescents as soon as possible. The failure to identify risk denies youth who are in need of potential intervention and could allow risk to develop into disability. …

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