The Relationship Between Ninth Grade Students’ Social Skills and Internalizing Problems by Free-and-Reduced Lunch Status

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Thomas E. Bates III
Kevin Tan
Esther Shin


High school is a critical time for the development of social skills as students grapple with exploring their sense of self and future. As such, many high school students experience internalizing problems, such as anxiety, fearfulness, and depression. The current study examines how social skills and internalizing problems differ among those who receive free-or-reduced lunch (FRL) and those who do not. Based on a cohort of ninth-grade students from one high school in Central Illinois (n=323), two-way moderation analysis was applied. The interaction term (ninth grade social skills X FRL) was significant for the model predicting internalizing problems at 10th grade, after taking into account students’ other demographics, problem behaviors, grades, attendance, and school disciplinary problems. The interaction plot for students on FRL indicates a marginal difference in internalizing problems among those with low and high social skills. However, for non-FRL students, those with low social skills reported more significant differences in internalizing problems than those with high social skills. Implications for social work practice relating to high school social and emotional development are discussed.

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