Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Abbey Eisenhower

Second Advisor

Jean Rhodes

Third Advisor

J. Michael Murphy


The relationship between psychological problems in children and poorer academic outcomes has been well documented. Although researchers have recommended mental health promotion as a preventive health care intervention that could lead to improved psychosocial and academic outcomes for children, the understanding of the complex processes by which children's academic performance is impacted by psychosocial risk are not well understood.

Promoting students' social and emotional skills could play a critical role in improving their academic performance. The Chilean preventive intervention program called Skills for Life (SFL) provides these skills to children from some of the most vulnerable communities in the country of Chile, who are identified as being at risk for psychosocial problems. Over forty-two thousand students, a subset of whom participated in a psychosocial intervention due to psychosocial risk, were enrolled in the Skills for Life program and were evaluated through first (2009) and third grade (2011). Data included parent ratings of psychosocial risk and class grades. Utilizing the data collected through this program, the objective of this study was to evaluate how mental health problems, as identified through parent screens administered in first and third grades, relate to academic achievement in the first and third grades among a nationwide sample of school aged Chilean children. The present study utilized structural equation modeling to conduct an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) of the Pediatric Symptom Checklist - Chilean version, and to test the associations between psychosocial risk in the first and third grades and academic achievement at first and third grades.

Four latent factors emerged from the (EFA) including three risk factors (internalizing, externalizing, and attention) as well as a fourth protective factor that could be conceptualized as emotional maturity. Overall, results indicate that early attention problems have a stronger association with poorer academic achievement at first and third grades than internalizing and externalizing problems. However, by third grade internalizing and externalizing problems start to have a negative association with academic achievement. Findings suggest that in the early years of education, interventions should focus on teaching children attention skills. In later years, interventions should continue to focus on developing attention skills as well as emotion and behavior regulation skills.


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