Assessing adolescent students with serious emotional disturbance using the MMPI-A

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Texas Tech University

Serious Emotional Disturbance is one of 13 handicapping conditions delineated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) . Statistical information from the United States Department of Education indicates that the prevalence of Serious Emotional Disturbance among public school students is under-diagnosed.

This research was designed to study the usefulness of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-Adolescent version (MMPI-A) in identifying public school students with Serious Emotional Disturbance. Twelve scales of the MMPI-A were selected for use in this study because they were associated with problems in school or because they related to one of the five criteria for SED specified in IDEA. These scales were Hypochondriasis, Depression, Psychopathic Deviate, Paranoia, Schizophrenia, Hypomania, Adolescent- Health Concerns, Adolescent-Depression, Adolescent-Low Self-Esteem, Adolescent-Low Aspirations, Adolescent-School Problems, and Immaturity. A sample of 36 students, identified with Serious Emotional Disturbance, completed the MMPI-A. Student scores on each of 12 scales were compared with the scores of 38 adolescents not diagnosed with Serious Emotional Disturbance (normative sample) and a clinical sample of 37 adolescents in psychiatric hospitals and residential treatment centers. Multivariate analysis of variance was used to determine the presence or absence of significant differences among the 12 scales across the three groups. Also, discriminant analysis was performed to determine which scales best sorted the students into the three groups.

Results indicated that scores for Psychopathic Deviate, Paranoia, Schizophrenia, and Immaturity, were significantly different between the normative sample and SED sample as well as between the normative and clinical inpatient sample. Scores were significantly different between the normative and SED sample for Hypomania. Significant differences were found only between the normative and clinical inpatient samples for Depression, Adolescent-Depression, and Adolescent-Low Self-Esteem. The other four scales showed no significant differences among the three groups. Discriminant analysis found a combination of two equations for discriminant function that accurately sorted a significant percentage of participants into the three groups.