Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 46, Issue 10, pp 2129–2142 | Cite as

Understanding Students’ Transition to High School: Demographic Variation and the Role of Supportive Relationships

  • Aprile D. Benner
  • Alaina E. Boyle
  • Farin Bakhtiari
Empirical Research

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Social support School transitions Socioemotional well-being Academic performance School belonging 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aprile D. Benner
    • 1
  • Alaina E. Boyle
    • 1
  • Farin Bakhtiari
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Family SciencesUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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