• Essays on Mental Health and Behavioral Outcomes of Children and Youth

      Maclean, Johanna Catherine; Leeds, Michael (Michael A.); Webber, Douglas (Douglas A.); Sfekas, Andrew (Temple University. Libraries, 2016)
      This dissertation incorporates three essays related to youth’s health and human capital outcomes. The first two essays investigate the impacts of important public policies on adolescents’ mental health and risky behavioral outcomes. Essay three examines the effects of mothers’ non-cognitive skills on children’s home environment qualities and their cognitive and behavioral outcomes. Domestic violence is a large public issue in the United States. Chapter 1 investigates the effectiveness of warrantless arrest laws enacted by states for domestic violence incidents on multiple youth mental and behavioral outcomes. Under these laws, police officers can arrest a suspect without a warrant even if they did not witness the crime. Although young women remain at the highest risk of victimization of domestic violence, children ages 3 to 17 years are also at elevated risk for domestic violence. Further, over 15 million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year in the United States. Exposure to domestic violence is associated with various social, emotional, behavioral, and health-related problems among youth. Using variation in timing of implementation of the arrest laws across states, I utilize differences-in-differences analyses in multiple, large-scale data sets of nationally representative samples of youth population to study the impact of the laws on a number of youth mental and behavioral outcomes. Results indicate the presence of heterogeneity with respect to the impact of states’ arrest laws on the outcomes studied. The study is useful for policymakers as it provides important evidence on the effectiveness of state measures designed to reduce domestic violence. The estimates obtained in the analyses are robust to multiple sensitivity checks to address key threats to identification. Chapter 2 empirically examines the effects of state cyberbullying laws on youth outcomes with respect to measures of school violence, mental health, and substance use behavior. Electronic form of harassment or cyberbullying is a large social, health, and education issue in the United States. In response to cyberbullying, most state governments have enacted electronic harassment or cyberbullying law as a part of their bullying prevention law. The analysis uses variation in the timing of implementation of cyberbullying laws across states as an exogenous source of variation. Using nationally representative samples of high-school teenagers from national and state Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, the study finds evidence of a positive relationship between adoption of cyberbullying laws and students’ reporting of certain experiences of school violence, mental health problems, and substance use activities. Regression analyses also study the effects of some important components of state cyberbullying laws. Finally, this study examines the sex-specific impacts of cyberbullying laws and its components on youth. The causal estimates are robust to the inclusion of multiple sensitivity checks. This study provides evidence on the efficacy of public measures designed to address cyberbullying among school-age children. Chapter 3 utilizes matched data from National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth (NLSY79) and Children and Young Adults (NLSY79 CYA), to estimate the impact of mothers’ self-esteem on young children’s home environment qualities that enhance early childhood cognitive functioning and extend better emotional support. The estimates suggest that mothers with higher self-esteem provide better home environment to their children during early stages of childhood. The results are robust across different estimation methods, empirical specifications, and demographic groups. This study also finds that mothers with higher self-esteem are more likely to engage in parental practices that support young children’s cognitive and emotional development. Further analysis shows that mothers' self-esteem has a causal relationship with cognitive and behavioral outcomes of school-age children. The results obtained in this study indicate that early childhood development policies directed towards enhancement of non-cognitive skills in mothers can improve children’s human capital outcomes.