Introduction. Parents and caregivers play key roles in supporting the development of self-determination and mental health needs in adolescents with and without disabilities. This study explored parent/caregiver perceptions of the relationships among mental health and self-determination constructs for youth with disabilities, across gender and disability status. Method. Parents/caregivers of adolescents with and without disabilities completed rating scales regarding adolescents’ self-determination status (Self Determination Inventory) and mental health symptoms (Behavior Assessment System for Children, 3rd Edition). Bayesian analyses examined the relationships among self-determination and mental health status. Results. Results are mixed, indicating moderate to robust relationships for self-determination as a moderator for the relationship between disability status and adaptive skills and behavioral symptoms, but mixed results for self-determination as a moderator of those demographic variables on internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Conclusion. While sample size is limited, results suggest that there are potential relationships among these variables that warrant further exploration.

Plain Language Summary

Self-determination is the idea of making things happen in your life. Mental health is the idea of taking care of your mind, of your ideas, and your feelings. Parents can help teens grow in their self-determination. Parents can also help teens with their mental health. We need to understand this better for teens with disabilities.

In this project, we wanted to learn how parents see mental health and self-determination for teens in their family. We also wanted to learn how mental health symptoms and self-determination might be different for different teens.

We asked teens and their parents to be part of our project. We asked teens of different genders to be in the study. And we asked teens who had disabilities and teens who did not have disabilities to be in the study. In this paper we will talk about what parents thought. In a future paper we will talk about what we learned from the teens.

Parents filled out two questionnaires. One was about how parents saw their teens show self-determination. One was about how teens show mental health symptoms. We looked at parent responses using statistics.

Parents reported that self-determination affects how teens feel and show stress. Self-determination related to mood. Self-determination related to attention. Parents said self-determination impacted how teens shared strong feelings. Self-determination also related to teens’ daily living skills. These impacts were different for different teens. They could be different for teens of different genders. They could also be different for teens with or without disabilities.

This is a new study. Only a small group of people were in the study. We need to ask more people to tell us how they feel. We want to find out more about other kinds of support teens have, like friends, school, or jobs. Then we can better understand teens’ mental health and self-determination.

We will keep studying these ideas in the future. It is important to support self-determination and mental health for all teens.

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