MA Research Paper


Master of Arts




Dr. Kim Shuey


This analysis draws on life course sociology to investigate the association between depression in adolescence and postsecondary completion in young adulthood. Three gaps in the mental health and education literature are addressed: lack of attention to the duration and timing of depressive symptoms, the overuse of high school degree receipt and college entry as outcome variables, and the exclusion of theoretically important confounders, such as self-rated health. Using panel data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, distinct mental health pathways that are based on a 12-item revision of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale are identified. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses are used to test nested models that predict educational attainment as a function of depression. Depressed adolescents are significantly less likely to complete postsecondary schooling relative to those who never experience depression, net of participant and parental characteristics. The association is especially strong for youth who experience an early onset of depressive symptoms and who are chronically depressed. The findings suggest that poor mental health in adolescence is a potential mechanism in the intergenerational transmission of socioeconomic status, which warrants further discussion on intervention strategies and increased availability of resources that are supportive of the psychological well-being of elementary and high school students.

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