Development and Psychopathology

Regular Articles

Distress and academic achievement among adolescents of affluence: A study of externalizing and internalizing problem behaviors and school performance

Nadia S. Ansarya1 c1 and Suniya S. Luthara1

a1 Teachers College, Columbia University


The main objectives of this study were to prospectively examine the relationship between externalizing (substance use and delinquency) and internalizing (depression and anxiety) dimensions and academic achievement (grades and classroom adjustment), as well as continuity over time in these domains, within a sample of wealthy adolescents followed from 10th to 12th grades (n = 256). In both parts of the study, cluster analyses were used to group participants at 10th grade and then group differences were evaluated on adjustment outcomes over time. In Part 1, problem behavior clusters revealed differences on academic indices with the two marijuana using groups—marijuana users and multiproblem youth—exhibiting the worst academic outcomes at all three waves. For Part 2, the two lowest achieving groups reported the highest distress across all externalizing dimensions over time. Stability across the three waves was found for both personal and academic competence as well as the associations between these two domains. Results are discussed in relation to intervention efforts targeting wealthy students at risk.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Nadia S. Ansary, Department of Psychology, Rider University, 2083 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648-3099; E-mail:


Preparation of the manuscript was partly funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (RO1-DA10726, RO1-DA11498, and RO1-DA14385) and the William T. Grant Foundation.