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Negative High School Experiences Predict Internalizing Symptomatology among Employed U.S. Adults with LD and ADHD

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Adolescence is a formative time in the development of self-concept, and negative self-concept predicts internalizing symptoms in later adulthood. This study examined the association between high school experiences and internalizing symptoms among emerging and early adults with learning disabilities (LD) and/or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In a sample of 1,163 employed U.S. adults (aged 18–40) with LD and/or ADHD, retrospective high school experiences were examined in relation to internalizing symptomatology in a hierarchical regression model that also included sociodemographic variables and those related to disability, employment, and postsecondary education. The present study found that high school experiences explained greater variance in internalizing symptomatology than any other factors, including employment and postsecondary experiences. Retrospective high school experiences (physical school victimization [ß = .14, p < .001], history of exclusionary discipline [ß = .18, p < .001], and low sense of school belonging [ß = –.11, p < .001]) were the only significant correlates of internalizing symptomatology in emerging and early adulthood besides being female (ß = –.13, p < .001) and the presence of comorbid ADHD and LD (ß = .15, p < .001). Present findings indicated that negative high school experiences and impressions are related to internalizing symptomatology into adulthood among individuals with LD and/or ADHD. With the goal of promoting positive life outcomes in adulthood, scholars and practitioners who serve this population may benefit from continued exploration of the association between high school experiences and later internalizing symptomatology. Implications for school prevention and therapeutic intervention are discussed.

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This study received funding from the Schwab Dyslexia and Cognitive Diversity Center.

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Correspondence to Mercedes A. Zapata.

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Zapata, M.A. Negative High School Experiences Predict Internalizing Symptomatology among Employed U.S. Adults with LD and ADHD. J Adult Dev 29, 218–227 (2022).

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