Close, W., & Solberg, V. S. (in press). Predicting achievement, distress, and retention among lower-income Latino youth. Journal of Vocational Behavior.

This study used structural equation modeling to evaluate whether a combination of social cognitive and self-determination theories (Bandura, 1986; Deci & Ryan, 1987) would effectively predict high school students’ distress, achievement and retention. Participants were 427 predominately Latino youth from an inner-city low income high school. Results indicated that students who reported feeling connected to teachers and their school reported higher levels of autonomous motivation for attending school. Students reporting higher levels of autonomous motivation for attending school reported more confidence (i.e. self-efficacy) in their academic ability, and performed better academically. In addition, students who reported higher self-efficacy beliefs reported less physical and psychological distress and reported higher levels of achievement. Retention in school was predicted by a combination of achievement and the absence of physical/psychological distress. Implications for practice and further research on urban high school students’ academic development are described.


Howard, K. A., Close, W., Blustein, D. L., & Solberg, V. S. (2002). Career Development in the Schools: Connecting Self-to-School-to-Work. The Counseling Psychologist, 30, 705-725. 

This article advocates for the collaboration of counseling psychologists with school counselors, other educators and mental health professionals to enhance the career development of the nation’s children and youth. Drawing from the theory of developmental-contextualism, the authors describe how school-to-work programming in schools can be effectively designed to prepare youth to transition from school to work to life. They describe two collaborative school-based programs that build on counseling psychology’s commitment to integrative, theory-based interventions and to rigorous evaluation methods. The two programs presented, Achieving Success Identity Pathways (ASIP) and Tools for Tomorrow, were designed to enhance youth’s motivation for academic success and vocational development. A number of implications for training and research are described.


Garwood, M. & Close, W. (2001). Identifying the Mental Health Needs of Foster Children. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 32, 125-135. 

Recent research has pointed to the increased risk of pathology for children placed in foster care. In response, the Child Welfare League of America has advocated for routine assessment of the psychological needs of children in foster care. A model for standardized psychological screening for all foster children shortly after placement is described. Interdisciplinary relationships between medical and psychological staff are stressed. Typical referral questions are outlined and suggestions for a testing battery that covers cognitive, behavioral, and emotional realms are given. Issues and problems inherent in testing this population are discussed, but the importance of psychological screening of this at-risk population is emphasized.


Johnston-Rodriguez, S. & Close, W. (under review). A qualitative investigation of career barriers for low income diverse urban youth. Journal of Counseling Psychology.

This study provides a qualitative investigation of perceived career barriers among 346 economically and racially diverse urban high school students. Students responded to an open-ended question asking them to list career barriers or obstacles that might keep from their future career goals. Results were analyzed using domain analysis (Spradley, 1979) and 24 barriers were identified. The five most frequently cited barriers included: Needing money (33%), personal attributes (30%), attendance/grades (15%), dropping out (10%), and having a child (9%).  Significant gender, ethnic and socioeconomic differences were found. Implications for designing systemic interventions to help high-risk students succeed are discussed.