Understanding Students’ Transition to High School: Demographic Variation and the Role of Supportive Relationships
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The transition to high school is disruptive for many adolescents, yet little is known about the supportive relational processes that might attenuate the challenges students face as they move from middle to high school, particularly for students from more diverse backgrounds. Identifying potential buffers that protect youth across this critical educational transition is important for informing more effective support services for youth. In this study, we investigated how personal characteristics (gender, nativity, parent education level) and changes in support from family, friends, and school influenced changes in socioemotional adjustment and academic outcomes across the transition from middle to high school. The data were drawn from 252 students (50% females, 85% Latina/o). The results revealed declines in students’ grades and increases in depressive symptoms and feelings of loneliness across the high school transition, with key variation by student nativity and gender. Additionally, stable/increasing friend support and school belonging were both linked to less socioemotional disruptions as students moved from middle to high school. Increasing/stable school belonging was also linked to increases in school engagement across the high school transition. These findings suggest that when high school transitions disrupt supportive relationships with important others in adolescents’ lives, adolescents’ socioemotional well-being and, to a lesser extent, their academic engagement are also compromised. Thus, in designing transition support activities, particularly for schools serving more low-income and race/ethnic minority youth, such efforts should strive to acclimate new high school students by providing inclusive, caring environments and positive connections with educators and peers.
KeywordsSocial support School transitions Socioemotional well-being Academic performance School belonging
The authors acknowledge the support of funding from the William T. Grant Foundation to Aprile Benner and from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to the Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin (R24 HD42849). Opinions reflect those of the authors and not necessarily those of the granting agencies.
A.D.B. conceived of and oversaw the design of the study, supervised the data analyses and interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript. A.E.B. and F.B. performed the statistical analyses, participated in the interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
This study was made possible by the generous support of the William T. Grant Foundation to Aprile Benner and from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to the Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin (R24 HD42849).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This original data collection was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Texas at Austin, and the current study was performed in accordance with the ethical standards at the University of Texas at Austin.
Informed consent was obtained from all study participants and their parents.
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