Semester of Graduation

Summer 2023


Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



The prevalence of student mental health concerns has increased the need for universal mental health screening. In turn, students may have increased access to services and support. Some screeners determine risk status by comparing student scores to norming samples that can be based solely on age (i.e., combined-gender) or on age and gender (i.e., separate-gender). Combined-gender norming samples assign risk status based on typical emotional and behavioral functioning across development. Separate-gender norming samples assign risk status based on developmental and biological differences between boys and girls. Currently, there is no research determining if students’ risk status changes based on norming sample choice. The current study examined screening scores on the BASC-3 BESS using combined-gender and separate-gender norms for students at a middle school in the Midwest (N = 611). Differences in raw scores, scaled T Scores from each norming sample, and determined risk status were examined through MANOVA, Chi Square, and ROC curve analysis. There were no statistically significant differences in adolescents’ BESS raw scores or risk status classification. However, some students’ risk statuses did change; using separate-gender norms resulted in a slightly higher number of boys and girls who were identified in the Elevated risk range. Although there was some slight variation in the number of students identified as at-risk, results of the McNemar- Bowker Test suggest that these slight variations were not statistically significant. Therefore, these findings suggest that school teams are likely to identify students’ mental health status similarly, regardless of whether they opt to use BESS separate-gender or combined-gender norms; although some students’ risk status is expected to vary slightly. These findings have the potential to inform best practice recommendations for school-wide screenings of mental health and identification of students at risk, particularly among schools using nationally-normed instruments that provide options for combined-gender and separate-gender normative comparisons. Additional implications, limitations, and future directions of the present study are discussed.



Committee Chair

Clark, Kelly N.



Available for download on Friday, May 01, 2026