Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

, Volume 35, Issue 5, pp 541–548 | Cite as

School and Family Correlates of Positive Affect in a Nationally Representative Sample of US Adolescents

  • Zinobia Bennefield


Research on psychological wellbeing has received far less attention than mental illness and has created a gap in our understanding of positive mental health. This research is even more sparse among adolescents. The present study examined the correlates of one measure of psychological wellbeing, positive affect, in the adolescent population. Two dimensions of school support (teacher–student relationship and student engagement) and family support (family communication and family closeness) were examined. Because previous studies suggest these correlates may be affected by race and gender, analysis was conducted in the total sample and in disaggregated subpopulations. A nationally representative sample of US adolescents (n = 10,148) from the National Comorbidity Survey—Adolescent Supplement was analyzed in this study. Structural equation models were used for analysis. Latinos reported significantly lower positive affect than Whites. Males reported higher levels of positive affect than females. Blacks and Latinos reported lower perceptions of family communication than Whites and higher school emotional support than Whites. Females reported lower family communication, lower family closeness, and higher school support than males. Analysis revealed that among the total sample, all dimensions of school and family support measured were correlates of positive affect. When the total sample was divided by gender and race there were marked differences in the relationship between school and family support across subpopulations. Males and Whites most closely resembled the total sample while the relationship between dimensions of school and family support were distinct for females and racial ethnic minorities. This study provides an examination of how psychosocial mechanisms operate similarly and differently across adolescent subgroups. In line with other studies, findings provide evidence of differences by race and gender. This study is relevant to social workers because the findings have implications for both assessment and intervention.


Adolescent mental health Positive affect School support Family support Race Gender 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of North CarolinaCharlotteUSA

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