Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology & Higher Education

First Committee Member

Tara C. Raines

Second Committee Member

Scott A. Loe

Third Committee Member

Joe N. Crank

Fourth Committee Member

Joseph Morgan

Number of Pages



Mental health problems often have an onset during the school age years and significantly impact the development, academic achievement, and future success of children and adolescents (Kessler et al., 2005). Less than half of the 10% to 20% of youth believed to be emotionally and behaviorally at-risk receive the mental health services they need (Bradshaw et al., 2008; Gresham, 2007). As a result, universal screening for mental health risk has been recommended as the best initial step to identifying and intervening with at-risk students. Numerous screeners and methods of implementation exist, but a widely accepted and utilized process has failed to emerge.

This study investigated a multistage approach to universal emotional and behavioral screening of adolescents in secondary schools utilizing self-report measures of the Behavioral and Emotional Screening System (BESS) and Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2). Specifically, the relationship between level of risk for emotional and behavioral difficulties and various demographic variables including gender, ethnicity, language status, and special education status were examined. The participants consisted of 358 eighth grade students.

Results found approximately 17% of students rated themselves in the at-risk range for emotional and behavioral difficulties on the BESS. Significantly more females rated themselves as at-risk for behavioral and emotional risk. Contrary to expectations, males and females did not rate themselves significantly different in the types of behavioral problems they were experiencing. Severity ratings of risk on the BESS administered at Stage 1 were consistent with the results of the BASC-2, the comprehensive behavioral assessment administered at Stage 2. Students identified with the most risk on the BESS endorsed more clinically significant maladaptive behaviors and less adjustment or functional skills on the BASC-2 than students with less measured risk. Overall, at-risk students reported negative feelings about school and themselves, difficulty with attention and focus, difficulties with parents, inability to solve problems, and feelings of sadness, which were most likely significantly impacting their ability to be successful at school.

The present study uncovered a large number of students who appeared to be in imminent need of mental health services, but were not receiving any formal intervention in or out of school. Without implementation of a mental health screening program such as this, students may not be appropriately identified as at-risk for emotional and behavioral problems and therefore, continue to struggle academically, socially, and behaviorally. The comprehensive data collected on at-risk students may ultimately be used to guide and direct future interventions based on a student’s descriptive profile.


behavioral; emotional; screening; social; social-emotional; universal


Educational Psychology | Psychology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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