Does parental involvement matter for students’ mental health in middle school?

Middle school is a risky period, marked by increased peer victimization, and the onset of several mental disorders, including suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs). Parental involvement is critical to students’ well-being; however, few studies have examined the role of parental involvement among middle school students or its effect on their mental health. This study examined the effects of perceived parental involvement and victimization on adolescents’ mental health difficulties (MHDs) and STBs. We also investigated whether these effects varied across demographic groups, and whether perceived parental involvement buffers the relationship between victimization and students’ mental health outcomes. The sample consisted of 301,628 students (50.7% female) from 615 middle schools (Grades 6 to 8) in Georgia (United States). Hierarchical linear modeling showed that higher student-level perceived parental involvement was related to fewer MHDs (b = −0.20) and STBs (b = −0.10), and higher school-level perceived parental involvement was related to fewer STBs (b = −0.11). However, higher student-level (b = 0.25, 0.08) and school-level (b = 0.37, 0.10) traditional victimization were associated with more MHDs and STBs. Student-level perceived parental involvement was also more positively related to MHDs and STBs for 6th (b = 0.06, 0.04) and 7th graders (b = 0.03, 0.02) than for 8th graders, and it was more negatively related to MHDs (b = −0.24) and STBs (b = −0.13) for girls than for boys. Perceived parental involvement also moderated the relationships among traditional victimization, cyber victimization MHDs, and STBs. Implications are discussed relating to how schools can promote parental involvement and student mental health. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)