The Impact of School and Classroom Environments on Youth Mental Health: Moderation by Genetic Polymorphisms

Does the influence of classroom stressors and supports on mental health differ depending on biological sensitivity? Does the impact of a school intervention on mental health differ depending on youth’s biological sensitivity to their environments?

Recent interventions targeting youth risk behaviors suggest that specific gene variants affect youth’s sensitivity to environments and may help explain the influences of interventions on different groups of youth. No studies to date have examined how these gene variants influence the effects of school- and classroom-focused interventions on youth outcomes. Brown plans to (1)test whether the impact of a school intervention on mental health differs based on youths’ gene variants, (2) examine how variation in classroom stress and support influences mental health and whether the influences differ based on the gene variants, and (3) explore the interactive role of multiple gene variants and how they influence other youth outcomes. The settings are third, fourth, and fifth grade classrooms in 18 public New York City elementary schools. The sample includes 850 students, their teachers, and their primary caregivers. The 4Rs (Reading, Writing, Respect and Resolution) Program is a school intervention that integrates social and emotional learning into a language arts curriculum for kindergarten to fifth grade students.