Diagnosis, Achievement , and Social Inequality: The Correlates and Consequences of Children's Mental Health Diagnoses

Potter, Daniel Jason, Department of Sociology, University of Virginia
Roksa, Josipa, Department of Sociology, University of Virginia

Most research on children's mental health focuses on symptoms thereby overlooking the correlates and consequences of diagnoses. While there is evidence that both symptoms and diagnoses are asymmetrically distributed across social groups, the social predictors of mental health diagnoses remain understudied. Additionally, the negative association between diagnosis and children's academic achievement is only vaguely understood, as most prior research documenting the negative association between children's diagnosis status and education has overlooked consideration of symptoms and other potentially confounding sociodemographic factors. Thus, the unique association between diagnosis and achievement remains unclear. Moreover, most prior research has typically examined the general (or overall) negative association between diagnosis and achievement, and not considered whether the consequences of diagnosis vary by family background. Diagnoses are given to children from families across the social class and race/ethnicity spectrum; therefore, they encounter diagnoses with varying levels of economic, cultural, and schooling resources, ideologies, and experiences. These differences may result in varying effects of diagnosis on children's outcomes, and investigation of the moderating effects of social class and race/ethnicity can help further understand how social status and mental health intersect in the creation of educational (and social) inequality. Thus, to extend current research and fill a void in the study of social inequality and children's mental health, use data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study - Kindergarten cohort (ECLS - k) to address these points by examining the correlates and iii consequences of mental health diagnoses, with particular attention given to children's academic achievement. Specifically, I investigate (1) the role of social class and race/ethnicity in shaping the process leading - up to and receipt of an internalizing or externalizing mental health diagnosis, (2) the association between attention hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and emotional disturbance (ED) diagnoses and children's academic achievement between kindergarten and eighth - grade and the moderating effect of social class and race/ethnicity, and (3) whether family and schooling resources help account for the negative association between diagnosis and achievement and can be used to explain the differential consequences across social class.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
children, mental health, diagnosis, academic achievement
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