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Psychometric Properties of Scores on the Mental Distress Response Scale among First-Generation College Students: Implications for Retention

Kalkbrenner & Flinn / Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, & Practice / September 2022

Female student comforting crying male student holding failing paper outside

First-generation college students” (FGCS) are at risk for suffering from mental health issues, which have direct implication for their retention and academic success. Past investigators consistently find that college students are more likely to discuss mental health issues with their peers than with college personnel. The first step in peer-to-peer mental health support is screening students on campus to gain a baseline understanding of how they respond when encountering a peer in mental distress. The Mental Distress Response Scale (MDRS) is a screening tool for appraising students” responses to a peer in mental distress. Score validation is a crucial step, as FGCS are a unique college student population and the psychometric properties of instrumentation can vary between different populations. Psychometric testing yielded support for the validity of scores on the MDRS with FGCS. Findings have direct implications for aiding student affairs officials” universal screening efforts to support FGCS” mental health and retention.