College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-22-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Bernadette Sanchez, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Kathryn E. Grant, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Antonio Polo, Ph.D.


Researchers, policy makers, and educators continuously seek new avenues to enhance the academic achievement of children and adolescents. This goal is particularly pressing among youth from low-income, urban backgrounds, who are at increased risk for school failure (Aud, Wilkinson-Flicker, Kristapovich, Rathbun, Wang, et al., 2011). Taking a more holistic approach to understanding academic achievement, burgeoning research has begun to focus on the mental health of the child. Preventive mental health (PMH) is a theoretically sound and effective means of reducing the incidence of mental illness among youth from varying levels of risk (Durlak & Wells, 1997; 1998; Greenberg, Domitrovich, Bumbarger, 2000).The link between mental health outcomes and educational outcomes is well documented, such that reduced symptomatology is associated with better school outcomes for youth. The current investigation sought to meta-analyze PMH programs to determine whether these programs positively affect school outcomes among youth and to identify important study moderators.

The current investigation closely reviewed 142 studies yielded from search criteria and included a total of 35 studies with 46 independent samples in the meta-analysis. Results across 46 independent samples of universal, selected, and indicated PMH interventions yielded a small but significant effect size (Hedge’s g = .202). Proposed categorical and continuous moderators were not found to moderate program outcomes. The high variability in program approaches and measurement of school outcomes is implicated as a possible explanation for lack of significant moderators. This meta-analysis adds to the growing body of literature that provides strong evidence for the causal relationship between mental health intervention and educational benefits for children and adolescents.