Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Interdisciplinary Health Sciences

First Advisor

Kieran Fogarty, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Rob Lyerla, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Bridget Weller, Ph.D.


Counseling, education, trauma


Poor educational performance in adolescence can occur due to trauma, substance use, or other stressors. This study used conflict theory as a foundation, suggesting differences in educational outcomes can be attributed to systems perpetuating the current power structures that cause inequality in academic opportunities and performance. Trauma in adolescence can have adverse effects on educational outcomes and emotional stability. Research suggests that mental health therapy as well as a reduction in trauma symptoms can improve educational outcomes. Race, gender, substance use, socioeconomic status, and employment are important variables that could influence educational outcomes. Interaction terms were found in the literature between race, gender, participation in counseling, and trauma severity scores.

A secondary dataset: The Longitudinal Studies on Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN) was used. Participants were ages 15-17. The sample size was N = 764. Data examined included: participation in counseling, educational outcomes measured on the School Competence Subscale (SCS), trauma symptom severity scores measured by the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children (TSCC), race, gender, access to supportive peers or adults, substance use, employment, socioeconomic status (SES), and interaction terms: gender-race, gender-TSCC scores, gender counseling, race-TSCC scores, race-counseling, and counseling-TSCC scores. A forward stepwise linear regression was used to identify possible predictors of educational outcomes.

Starting with 18 variables, a forward stepwise logistic regression model was able to reduce them to six predictor variables in order of strength: TSCC-counseling interaction, gender- TSCC interaction, SES, cigarette use, gender-race interaction, and supportive adult. The R2 change in the final model is .139 and is statistically significant (p = .036). Counseling by itself did not result in improvement in educational outcomes, but an interaction term between counseling and TSCC scores was found.

Counseling did not improve educational outcomes and is contradictory to the literature. Literature has found that drugs can potentially lead to poorer academic functioning. Low SES resulting in poorer educational outcomes is consistent with the literature. Results for supportive adult were marginal, warranting further research. Participants in counseling with low TSCC scores performed better academically than those not in counseling, while those in counseling with high TSCC scores performed worse academically than those not in counseling with higher TSCC scores. Gender showed potential mediating effects on trauma severity and educational outcomes. Findings partially align with disparities posed by conflict theory, suggesting that inequalities in educational outcomes are systemic in nature at least to some degree. Clinical applications include proper screening for mental health and substance use, supporting prevention services, trauma-informed care, strengthening supports, and sensitivity to race and gender differences and needs. Limitations include: 1) the dataset did not look at evidence-based treatment; 2) the inability to make inferences from stepwise regression results; 3) a small range of 0-6 on the educational outcomes scale; 4) the bias of this researcher as a therapist; and 5) use of imputation with the expectation-maximization (EM) increases standard error sizes.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access