A dual-factor model of mental health: Understanding student engagement and school performance using a person-centered approach

Susan Antaramian, University of South Carolina


Traditional mental health models focus on psychological problems and distress. Accordingly, health is viewed as the absence of illness or disability. In contrast, a dual-factor model of mental health incorporates both indicators of positive well-being and measures of psychopathological symptoms to comprehensively determine an individual's psychological adjustment. The current study used such a dual-factor model to measure the mental health status of young adolescents. Middle school students were classified into one of four distinct groups based on having high or low psychopathology and high or low subjective well-being. Furthermore, group differences in student engagement, academic achievement, and environmental support for learning were investigated. Results demonstrated the existence of a traditionally neglected group of adolescents (low subjective well-being and low psychopathology) who are nonetheless at risk for academic and behavior problems in school. Overall, both the presence of positive well-being and the absence of symptoms were necessary for ensuring the most advantageous school performance. These results highlight the importance of incorporating positive indicators of well-being along with traditional negative factors in understanding relationships between individuals' mental health and educational outcomes.