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Exploration of Two Alternative Approaches to Dual-Continua Mental Health Classification among High School Students


Literature on school-based mental health has demonstrated that there is tremendous value in conceptualizing youths’ mental health within the dual-continua model (DCM), which emphasizes that individuals’ mental health is influenced by both their subjective wellbeing (SWB) and psychological distress. However, there are currently few guidelines or recommendations for classification of students based on their answers to measures of SWB and distress in the context of school-based, universal mental health screening. This dissertation includes two studies designed to further the field of DCM by exploring two approaches to mental health classification among high school students following universal mental health screening. Study 1 investigated classification of students’ mental health on two measures of SWB and distress. Using Receiver Operating Characteristic curve analyses, optimal cut scores on both measures of DCM mental health were identified. Students were classified into groups based on these cut scores, and outcomes of positive youth development were significantly different across groups. All differences favored students with the highest scores on SWB and lowest scores on distress. In Study 2, latent profile analysis was carried out on two subsamples to explore empirically-based latent classes of DCM mental health among students in an effort to identify possible cut scores on measures of SWB and distress. Fit information did not indicate a best fitting model that could be replicated to further recommendations for school-based screening. Implications for school-based universal DCM screening are discussed.

Keywords: dual-continua model, adolescents, screening, classification

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