Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

First Advisor

Dr. Emily Graybill

Second Advisor

Dr. Brain Barger


INTRODUCTION: Early warning systems (EWS) have been promoted within education as a way of identifying students at risk of dropout. There is potential for behavior health screeners like the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to aid in the prediction and prevention of outcomes flagged through early warning systems. This study aims to understand the associations between gender, race, subscales of the SDQ, and EWS indicators.

METHODS: This cross-sectional study used data from middle school students who had completed the SDQ during the Fall 2021 semester. The SDQ was administered at seven schools in a southern school district where students were asked to complete the screener and self-report their gender and race. The SDQ consists of 25 questions, which were used to define four, previously theorized and tested, subscales. EWS indicators were reported by each school.

RESULTS: Of the 2,819 students who completed the SDQ, 89% were Black and 51% were male. A subset of these students was used to evaluate the mediating effect of SDQ subscales on the relationships between gender and race with EWS indicators of course performance scores. In this sample of 1,784 students, White students, compared to Black students, were more likely to have higher academic scores.

DISCUSSION: There are associations between gender and race with EWS indicators, which include direct and indirect effects through the mediation of SDQ subscales. This suggests that there is potential value in utilizing screeners like the SDQ in the prevention and early intervention of EWS-flagged concerns.


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