Dissertation: Christian Patz

Cohort 2, published 2011


The Black and White World of Emotional Disturbance


Mental health and behavior problems occur at high rates among Latino students in California; however, Latino children are less likely than African American and white children to receive special education services for these problems. Efforts to understand and address these disparities should include research to understand how school psychologists perceive and respond to student behaviors based on the student’s ethnicity. To this end, this study conducted an Internet-based experiment with a sample of 43 school psychologists from across California. The primary aims for the study were: (1) to determine how being Latino impacts students’ eligibility for service when they have emotional challenges; and (2) to determine if school psychologists identify mental health needs in Latino students at the same rate as white or African American students. All participants were given a demographic survey, a clinical case vignette, and a clinical questionnaire. The ethnicity of the student in the vignette was randomly assigned and represented the only manipulation in the study. When asked if the student qualified for special education, participants assigned the non-Latino vignettes qualified the student at a greater rate than subjects receiving the Latino vignette and the difference was significant. Most other comparisons did not yield statistically significant results.

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