The link between school climate and mental health among an ethnically diverse sample of middle school youth

Kelli Franco, Elizabeth Baumler, Elizabeth D. Torres, Yu Lu, Leila Wood, Jeff R. Temple

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


School climate consistently relates to adolescent adjustment across academic, socioemotional, and behavioral domains. Although past research highlights the impact of school climate on youths’ experience of internalizing symptoms and violent behavior, examination of potential links with specific externalizing processes is limited. The current study examined associations between middle school students’ perceived school climate and internalizing and externalizing mental health symptoms. A positive school climate was hypothesized to be inversely related to all mental health measures. Seventh grade students (N = 2768; 50% female) were recruited from 24 Texas middle schools. Participants completed baseline self-reports of perceived school climate across three dimensions (student-student relationships, student-teacher relationships, and awareness/need of reporting violence) as well as self-reports of internalizing (i.e., depression and anxiety) and externalizing (i.e., impulsivity and hostility) symptoms. Multilevel regression analyses were implemented to test all hypotheses, controlling for participant sex and race/ethnicity. Results indicated student-student relationships were negatively related to depressive symptoms, student-teacher relationships were positively related to anxiety and negatively linked to hostility, and help-seeking/reporting awareness was inversely related to all four indices of mental health. The current research underscores the impact of school climate on adolescents’ psychological adjustment and emphasizes the need to address awareness and responsivity in reporting concerning school behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18488-18498
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Psychology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Early adolescents
  • Mental health
  • School climate
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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