Adolescent depression in public schools

Bruce B Johnson, Marquette University


The number of children at risk of school failure has risen dramatically. Research suggests that adolescent depression is under-researched and may act as an impediment to school success. Little agreement is found on clinical frequency or severity of adolescent depression. Utilizing the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), this study initially investigated the incidence of adolescent depression occurring in two public high schools in Wisconsin. Secondly, this study investigated the severity of adolescent depression occurring in the study group as measured by the BDI. Thirdly, this study investigated the association of the BDI score with measures of students' gender, age, program placement (regular/special education), and scores obtained on achievement tests in reading and math. A greater incidence and severity of depression were found than previously reported in the literature. The frequency of adolescent depression as identified by scores on the Beck (cutoff score = 10-24+) was 131 subjects or 37.7%. Severely depressed students (BDI score = 24+) represented a substantial group (4.3%) in the general student population and warrant further investigation. The BDI mean for the sample was 8.7, SD = 7.3, consistent with Teri (1980) yet greater than reported means for adults (5.13) or children (8.06) (Albert & Beck, 1975). Utilizing the validated 16+ score, this study found more subjects reporting either no or mild depression (84.1%) than moderate/severe depression (15.8%). The relationship between the variables gender and program placement and depression was found to be significant. Results support that gender plays an important role in the identification and severity of depression in adolescents. A significant relationship was not found between age and depression. Unexpectedly, more depressed students were found in regular education than special education. Chi squares for achievement scores (reading and math) were not significant in this sample.

Recommended Citation

Johnson, Bruce B, "Adolescent depression in public schools" (1990). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9101416.