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Depression, Physical Symptoms, and Academic Engagement in Middle School: A Mediational Model of the Influence of Emotional and Somatic Pain on Classroom Performance


Symptoms of depression in adolescence, even at subclinical levels, can impair a student's ability to engage in learning. It is unclear, however, what it is about depressive symptoms that produce declines in academic engagement in the classroom. The present study examined this relationship between student-reported depressive symptoms and teacher-reported academic engagement in the classroom. Specifically, this investigation explored a mediational model where somatic symptoms, which are highly related to depressive symptoms, were tested as a mediator of this relationship between student well-being and academic performance. Using a large, ethnically diverse sample of 6th-grade students (N = 4,174, 51% female), multiple regression was used to test this mediational model. Somatic symptoms were found to be a significant mediator of the depression-engagement relationship, accounting for 68% of the influence of depressive symptoms on classroom engagement. Implications are discussed.

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