Prospective Relations between Adolescent Achievement and Physiological Health: The School’s Role in Buffering the Hidden Burdens of Academic Success
Jacqueline Sims

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Boston College

Primary Discipline

In the US, persistent health inequities exist across both socioeconomic strata and racial/ethnic groups. Models of upward mobility posit that increased human capital should narrow these gaps, yet higher education and income do not consistently translate into improved health and many race-based health inequities persist even at higher levels of SES. As a possible explanation for these persistent inequities, recent evidence suggests that striving for academic competence in adolescence—an important precursor of social mobility—in contexts of both socioeconomic disadvantage and racial/ethnic marginalization may actually exacerbate health inequities by repeatedly triggering stress responses that compromise health. It is still unclear whether such associations operate as a function of cumulative exposure to risk (including both SES and racial/ethnic marginalization), or whether they would emerge outside of collective disadvantage. Further, little is known about how the school context may affect such associations between achievement and health, despite extensive evidence suggesting that opportunities for SES comparisons or for discrimination at school may amplify the stressors associated with striving for academic achievement.In order to further our understanding of academic success as a potential context of stress, this work seeks to (1) examine associations between adolescent achievement and adult physiological health; (2) consider how these associations may vary across contexts of marginalization, specifically SES-related risk or membership in a traditionally marginalized racial/ethnic group; and (3) assess whether SES or discriminatory characteristics of schools moderate these associations. Results will help to clarify links among achievement, health, and contexts of marginalization and will also seek to delineate protective school-based mechanisms in these associations.
About Jacqueline Sims
Jacqueline Sims is a doctoral candidate in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, where she has served as an undergraduate instructor of Adolescent Psychology. During her graduate work with Dr. Rebekah Levine Coley, she has worked on a variety of projects that consider contextual influences on trajectories of both achievement and health. Her co-authored work has appeared in a variety of journals including Social Science & Medicine, Psychology & Health, and the Journal of Educational Psychology. Prior to entering graduate school, Jacqueline served as the Project Coordinator in the Wilbourn Infant Lab at Duke University, and she holds a B.A. in psychology from Duke where she was a recipient of the Robertson Scholarship.

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