The relationship between academic performance and mental health among Head Start children

Document Type


Publication Date


Date Added



The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between academic performance and mental health among young children using a national Head Start sample. This research was a secondary data analysis of an observational longitudinal study known as Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES). The 2003 FACES Cohort involved a nationally representative sample of 2,400 newly entering 3 and 4 year old children and families in 63 Head Start programs in the United States. Data from three of the four collection periods were used for this work. The two primary research questions were: (1) How is children's mental health concurrently associated with children's academic performance? (2) How will child's academic performance predict mental health over time? For the concurrent analysis the results showed that the better the academic performance, the better the indicators of mental health. For the longitudinal analysis, the results showed that higher academic performance during Head Start predicted better mental health in kindergarten. The findings also indicated a significant relationship between mental health and gender. In looking at the over-time relationship, girls tended to have better mental health than boys. In terms of race, there were no significant differences between Blacks compared to Whites but there was a difference between Hispanics and Whites. Hispanics had better mental health. The findings of this study have implications for future research and public health practice. The first implication is that this study provides foundation for additional studies to look at the relationship between mental health and academic performance among young children. The results from this study need to be examined in other settings. Additionally, the findings of the study will help to increase the knowledge of the effects of Head Start in the academic development of a child. Also, this study will add to existing literature concerning the effects of the home environment on academic performance and mental health. Finally, the research may also foster greater collaboration between educators and public health practitioners.






Public Health


Morgan State University