Thelen, Lavinia ORCID: 0000-0001-9057-1162 (2023). Academic underachievement and mental disorders in adolescence: Assessment and treatment. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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Academic underachievement affects many adolescents and is defined as a notable discrepancy between actual and expected achievement, given the student's cognitive ability level. A significant percentage of adolescents suffer from both academic underachievement and mental disorders, putting them at risk for negative psychosocial development. However, there are few treatments available focussing on these adolescents. The present doctoral thesis evaluated the efficacy of the treatment program "SELBST – achievement problems" in a randomised controlled trial (RCT). Furthermore, the added benefit of a specifically designed smartphone app to improve therapy transfer was investigated. Methods: The psychometric properties of the primary outcome, the Academic Problems Checklist, were analysed. A clinically referred sample of n = 60 adolescents aged 11-18 years was randomised into either the experimental group, receiving weekly cognitive behavioural therapy based on the "SELBST – achievement problems" treatment manual including a therapy smartphone app or into the control group, receiving treatment as usual. Results: The revised version of the Academic Problems Checklist consists of a 17-item, semi�structured clinical interview for adolescents, parents, and teachers. The analysis of the psychometric properties of the APC showed it is a short, reliable, and valid instrument for assessing academic underachievement of adolescents with mental disorders using a multi�informant approach. The RCT showed for both groups clinically relevant improvements on the primary outcome of academic underachievement. For the teacher-rated academic underachievement, a statistical superiority of the treatment group compared to the control group was found during the follow-up phase. The treatment group showed significant improvements regarding their grade point average compared to the control group. Statistical superiority of the treatment group was found for the individual problemlist measuring individual academic underachievement problems with large effects in the adolescent and parent rating. Mental health problems improved in both groups, however, there was no statistical superiority of either group. These effects remained largely stable during the follow-up period. The smartphone app was well accepted by the adolescents, however, it showed no statistically significant additional benefit compared to the standard SELBST-treatment. Conclusion: In summary, improvements were found for academic underachievement and mental problems. The treatment satisfaction was high, but the smartphone app provided no significant additional benefit. The study's limitations included the small sample size, the substantial dropout rate in the experimental group, and the technical challenges encountered implementing a smartphone app

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-645568
Date: January 2023
Place of Publication: Köln
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Medicine
Divisions: Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie > Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie des Kindes- und Jugendalters
Subjects: Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Academic underachievementEnglish
Mental disordersEnglish
Treatment underachievementEnglish
Date of oral exam: 30 March 2022
NameAcademic Title
Kalbe, ElkeProf. Dr.
Hellmich, MartinProf. Dr.
Refereed: Yes


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