Date of Award

Fall 12-8-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Secondary Education



Committee Chair

Jihye Kim

First Committee Member

Nita Paris

Second Committee Member

Binyao Zheng


The sense of belongingness is one of the most basic human psychological human needs. In adolescents, the sense of belongingness is derived from family, peer groups, and teachers. When this school belongingness need is not met, an adolescent may develop feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. A teenager may turn to substance abuse, self-harming behaviors, thoughts about suicide, and suicide attempts, to fill this void of not belonging. The purpose of this research is to determine the longitudinal trends regarding school belongingness at the high school level and how it relates to student thoughts of self-harm, suicidal ideation, and attempts at suicide. The secondary data from the Georgia Student Health Survey (GSHS) was analyzed to investigate if specific factors, often present at the stage of adolescent development, are correlated to thoughts of self-injury and suicide; if certain factors are correlated, which determinants carry the strongest level of statistical significance. The results indicated that a correlation exists between a student’s sense of belongingness and whether they engage in self-harming behaviors, suicide ideation, and suicide attempts. Female students reported higher incidences than males across all grade levels. The highest correlation with belongingness was cultural acceptance, followed by adult social support and a positive school climate. The students who reported the lowest levels of school belongingness cited the demands of school and family issues as the reasons for the lack of school connectedness. The findings support the notion that the school is an ideal environment to provide safety and support measures aimed to increase the sense of belonging for teenagers because school is such an integral part of an adolescent’s daily life. Such measures may very well be the key to reaching those students who do not feel like they belong anywhere.