Adolescent Emotional Distress: The Role of Family Obligations and School Connectedness

Ada M. Wilkinson-Lee, Qionghui Zhang, Velia Leybas Nuno, Mari S. Wilhelm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The current study draws upon ecodevelopmental theory to identify protective and risk factors that may influence emotional distress during adolescence. Hierarchical regression analyses were used to examine the relationship among family obligations, school connectedness and emotional distress of 4,198 (51% female) middle and high school students who were primarily (59%) European American. The overall model explained 21.1% of the variance in student emotional distress. A significant interaction effect was found indicating that school connectedness moderated the relationship between family obligations and emotional distress. Specifically, for students with low to moderate levels of family obligations, a stronger sense of school connectedness was associated with lower emotional distress. The buffering effect of school connectedness was weakened as the level of family obligations increased and completely disappeared for students who experienced high levels of family obligations. The creation of a program that takes a holistic approach, in order to curtail the levels of highly emotionally distressed adolescents, must continue to address the ever changing demands that adolescents encounter and prepare youth to deal with functioning within multiple contexts and do so while maintaining emotional well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-230
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Emotional distress
  • Family obligations
  • School connectedness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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