Depression and social functioning of young adolescents who have been retained
Fiske, Angela Gannaway
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The purpose of this three year study was to investigate the relationship between grade retention, adolescent depression, and the social functioning variables of social acceptance, social confidence, and popularity among young adolescents in middle school. The sample consisted of 80 adolescents, who were divided into three groups: those who had been retained in grade at some point in their schooling experience, those who had not been retained but scored in the bottom quartile on standardized tests, and those who were considered on-grade level and scored in the top three quartiles on the standardized tests. During the spring of 2003, 2004, and 2005, data were collected from participants’ cumulative folders and self-ratings on the Children’s Depression Inventory, Self-Perception Profile for Children, Coping Resources Inventory Scales for Educational Enhancement, and Piers-Harris' Children's Self-Concept Scale. Data were analyzed through one-way analysis of variance tests, repeated measures, and regression. Retained students significantly differed from both the low-performing and on-grade level control groups, reporting higher levels of depressive symptomology across the middle school years. No significant differences were found among the three groups with regards to social functioning. However, the retained and low-performing groups reported greater social functioning concerns during their seventh grade year and the on-grade-level group reported more concerns the following year. Group membership and social functioning accounted for the greatest amount of variance of total depression at the end of eighth grade for the retained and low-performing students; social functioning ratings taken the eighth grade year were significant predictors of total depression at the end of middle school for the on-grade level students. The results suggest that retained students are more depressed than their typically developing peers who have not been retained. Social functioning plays a crucial role in young adolescents’ schooling experiences and students’ perceptions of their social functioning are influenced by academic status. These findings are critical to better understanding the needs of at-risk adolescents, especially those overage for grade. Considering the wide use of grade retention to address academic failure, more research is needed exploring the longitudinal effects of the practice on young adolescents, especially the psychological outcomes.