at-risk Latino students, early adolescent students, social–emotional screening


Previous research has shown that Latino/a middle school students exhibiting emotional or behavioral disturbance are at risk for undesirable academic outcomes. The purpose of this study was to understand the perceptions and experiences of at-risk Latino/a students to identify ways to improve interventions designed to promote their academic retention and success. Participants included 11 Latino/a students between the ages of 11 and 13, 8 male and 3 female, who were screened for being at risk for behavior disorders using the Systematic Screening for Behavior Disorders. These students shared their perceptions and experiences of schooling during in-depth qualitative interviews. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to understand how students made sense of their school experiences. Students’ descriptions tended to be contextualized within relationships with peers, teachers, and family members. Many students shared experiences of being the target of overt racism and microaggressions from peers. Students believed they were more likely to be successful in school when teachers displayed flexibility with deadlines, provided extra help, and communicated a sense of warmth and caring. The data from this study suggested that school psychologists can benefit from attending to the perceptions of at-risk students, which in the context of this study would entail facilitating an inclusive school climate, fostering effective teacher and student relationships, and facilitating parent-teacher relationships during the difficult transition from elementary to middle school.

Original Publication Citation

Balagna, R., Young, E., & Smith, T. B. (2013). School experiences of early adolescent Latinos/as at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders. School Psychology Quarterly, 28, 101-121.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


American Psychological Association




David O. McKay School of Education


Counseling Psychology and Special Education