Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 46, Issue 11, pp 2321–2340 | Cite as

Mental Health and Educational Experiences Among Black Youth: A Latent Class Analysis

  • Theda Rose
  • Michael A. Lindsey
  • Yunyu Xiao
  • Nadine M. Finigan-Carr
  • Sean Joe
Empirical Research


Disproportionately lower educational achievement, coupled with higher grade retention, suspensions, expulsions, and lower school bonding make educational success among Black adolescents a major public health concern. Mental health is a key developmental factor related to educational outcomes among adolescents; however, traditional models of mental health focus on absence of dysfunction as a way to conceptualize mental health. The dual-factor model of mental health incorporates indicators of both subjective wellbeing and psychopathology, supporting more recent research that both are needed to comprehensively assess mental health. This study applied the dual-factor model to measure mental health using the National Survey of American Life—Adolescent Supplement (NSAL-A), a representative cross-sectional survey. The sample included 1170 Black adolescents (52% female; mean age 15). Latent class analysis was conducted with positive indicators of subjective wellbeing (emotional, psychological, and social) as well as measures of psychopathology. Four mental health groups were identified, based on having high or low subjective wellbeing and high or low psychopathology. Accordingly, associations between mental health groups and educational outcomes were investigated. Significant associations were observed in school bonding, suspensions, and grade retention, with the positive mental health group (high subjective wellbeing, low psychopathology) experiencing more beneficial outcomes. The results support a strong association between school bonding and better mental health and have implications for a more comprehensive view of mental health in interventions targeting improved educational experiences and mental health among Black adolescents.


Dual-factor model of mental health Educational experiences School bonding Black adolescents 



The NSAL is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; U01-MH57716) with supplemental support from the OBSSR Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research and the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the University of Michigan to Dr. James S. Jackson.

Author Contributions

T.R. conceived of the study, conducted the statistical analysis, led interpretation of data, drafted the background and discussion sections of manuscript, formatted the manuscript including references, and edited throughout; M.L. participated in data interpretation, helped to draft the background and discussion sections of the manuscript, and provided additional edits throughout; Y.X. helped conduct the statistical analysis, wrote up results, edited the method section, worked on the discussion section of the manuscript, and provided additional edits throughout; N.F.C. participated in data interpretation, drafted the method section of the manuscript, and provided additional edits throughout; S.J. provided critical feedback on data analysis and interpretation and participated in editing the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

The NSAL is an IRB approved nationally representative household survey thus all procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

This study is a secondary analysis of the 2001–2003 National Survey of American Life (NSAL) adolescent sample, originally collected by researchers at the Program for Research on Black Americans (PRBA) through the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. Informed consent and assent were obtained from the adolescent’s legal guardian and adolescent prior to the study participation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of MarylandBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Silver School of Social WorkNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.George Warren Brown School of Social WorkWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

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