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The Effect of Psychological Distress on Adolescents' Academic Engagement: The Roles of Social-Emotional Competence and Teachers' Caring Behavior.

PURPOSE: The relationship between psychological distress (PD) and academic engagement (AE) in adolescents is widely recognized. However, there is a lack of research on the mechanisms behind this correlation, especially in COVID-19 pandemic policy liberalization. This study proposed a moderated mediation model to determine the mediating role of social-emotional competence (SEC) between PD and AE and the moderating role of teachers' caring behavior (TCB).

PATIENTS AND METHODS: The moderated mediation model was tested by PROCESS macro developed based on SPSS with Chinese adolescents aged 13-18 years (n = 8625; male 50.5%) as survey respondents. Multiple scales, including the 6-item Kessler PD Scale, SEC Scale, TCB Scale, and AE Scale, were used in this test.

RESULTS: Adolescent PD negatively predicted AE. In addition, SEC partially mediated the relationship between adolescent PD and AE. TCB moderated the direct and indirect relationships between PD and AE, which mitigated the negative effect of PD on AE and enhanced the positive effect of SEC on AE.

CONCLUSION: Adolescent SEC and TCB are essential in mediating PD and AE. This study provided instructions for schools and teachers to intervene in adolescents' PD and academic problems, such as improving SEC and engaging in TCB in an adequate and timely manner. In addition, these findings provided vital references for adolescent mental health interventions in future large-scale public health events.

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