Exploring the mediating effect of academic engagement on math and reading achievement for students who have experienced maltreatment

Casey Anne Mullins, Carlomagno C. Panlilio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Students who experience maltreatment tend to underperform academically relative to their peers, requiring an understanding of academically-related mechanisms that are potential intervention targets. Academic engagement, a multidimensional construct that is influential in students’ investment in learning and the school context, is one such mechanism that has been associated with positive academic outcomes and develops through interactions between students and their environment. Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine how maltreatment experiences and trauma symptoms were indirectly associated with academic achievement in adolescence through academic engagement. Participants and setting: The study was conducting on a subsample of 583 youths from the National Study of Child and Adolescent Wellbeing II (NSCAW II) cohort. Methods: Structural equation modeling was used to examine the indirect effect engagement on the relationship between maltreatment and trauma symptomology and academic achievement. Results: Academic engagement significantly mediated trauma symptoms and later standardized reading (β = −0.02; 95 % CI [−0.04, −0.0004]) and math (β = −0.02; 95 % CI [−0.05, −0.0003]) achievement test scores. However, similar mediating effects were not found for engagement on maltreatment and later standardized reading (β = −0.01; 95 % CI [−0.03, 0.01]) and math (β = −0.01; 95 % CI [−0.03, 0.01]) achievement test scores. Conclusions: These findings suggest that variability in academic outcomes was indirectly associated with engagement but only for students who exhibited trauma symptoms rather than experiencing maltreatment alone. The findings suggest future researchers should consider engagement should as an academically-related mechanism to help students who were maltreated succeed academically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105048
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - Jul 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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