Middle School Transition Stress: Links with Academic Performance, Motivation, and School Experiences

Abstract

The present study investigates links between early adolescents’ subjective experiences of stress associated with the middle school transition and their academic outcomes. Seventh and eighth grade students (N = 774) were surveyed about their experiences during their transition to middle school. Students answered questions about stress associated with the transition to middle school, the extent to which their friendships had changed over the course of the transition, and a variety of academic outcomes including academic performance, school bonding, and academic motivation. Results indicate that higher amounts of middle school transition stress predict lower grades, higher school anxiety, and lower school bonding. Moreover, transition stress predicted academic outcomes regardless of whether adolescents were in a stable friendship group across the transition to middle school. Results are discussed in light of implications for promoting positive social and academic development across the transition to middle school.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: testing and interpreting interactions. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Anderman, E. M., Austin, C. C., & Johnson, D. M. (2002). The development of goal orientation. In A. Wigfield & J. S. Eccles (Eds.), Development of achievement motivation (pp. 197–220). San Diego: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bagwell, C. L., Newcomb, A. F., & Bukowski, W. M. (1998). Preadolescent friendship and peer rejection as predictors of adult adjustment. Child Development, 69, 140–153. doi:10.2307/1132076.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Barber, B. K., & Olsen, J. A. (2004). Assessing the transitions to middle and high school. Journal of Adolescent Research, 19, 3–30. doi:10.1177/0743558403258113.

  5. Bellmore, A. (2011). Peer rejection and unpopularity: associations with GPAs across the transition to middle school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103, 282–295. doi:10.1037/a0023312.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Boxer, P., Goldstein, S. E., DeLorenzo, T., Savoy, S., & Mercado, I. (2011). Educational aspiration-expectation discrepancies: relation to socioeconomic and academic risk related factors. Journal of Adolescence, 34, 609–617. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2010.10.002.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bronstein, P., Duncan, P., Clauson, J., Abrams, C. L., Yannett, N., Ginsburg, G., & Milne, M. (1998). Preventing middle school adjustment problems for children from lower-income families: a program for aware parenting. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 19, 129–152. doi:10.1016/S0193-3973(99)80032-X.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Cairns, R. B., & Cairns, B. D. (1994). Lifelines and risks: pathways of youth in our time. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Ciairano, S., Rabaglietti, E., Roggero, A., Bonino, S., & Beyers, W. (2007). Patterns of adolescent friendships, psychological adjustment and antisocial behavior: the moderating role of family stress and friendship reciprocity. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 31, 539–548. doi:10.1177/0165025407080573.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Duchesne, S., & Ratelle, C. (2010). Parental behaviors and adolescents’ achievement goals at the beginning of middle school: emotional problems as potential mediators. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 497–507. doi:10.1037/a0019320.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Duchesne, S., Ratelle, C. F., & Roy, A. (2012). Worries about middle school transition and subsequent adjustment: the moderating role of classroom goal structure. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 32, 681–710. doi:10.1177/0272431611419506.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Eccles, J. S. (2011). Gendered educational and occupational choices: applying the Eccles et al. model of achievement-related choices. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 35, 195–201. doi:10.1177/0165025411398185.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Eccles, J. S., & Midgley, C. (1989). Stage/environment fit: developmentally appropriate classrooms for young adolescents. In R. Ames & C. Ames (Eds.), Research on motivation and education: goals and young adolescents (Vol. 3, pp. 139–186). New York: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Eccles, J. S., & Roeser, R. W. (2011). Schools as developmental contexts during adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21, 225–241. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00725.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Eccles, J. S., & Wigfield, A. (1995). In the mind of the actor: the structure of adolescents’ achievement task values and expectancy-related beliefs. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 215–225. doi:10.1177/0146167295213003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Eccles, J. S., Lord, S. E., & Midgley, C. (1991). What are we doing to early adolescents? The impact of educational contexts on early adolescents. American Journal of Education, 99(521), 542. doi:10.1086/443996.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Eccles, J. S., Midgley, C., Wigfield, A., Buchanan, C. M., Reuman, D., Flanagan, C., & Mac Iver, D. (1993). Development during adolescence: the impact of stage-environment fit on young adolescents’ experiences in schools and families. American Psychologist, 48, 90–101. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.48.2.90.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Foster, V., Kimmel, M., & Skelton, C. (2001). “What about the boys?” An overview of the debates. In W. Martino & B. Meyenn (Eds.), What about the boys?: issues of masculinity in schools (pp. 1–23). Buckingham: Open University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Gentry, M., Gable, R. K., & Rizza, M. G. (2002). Students’ perceptions of classroom activities: are there grade-level and gender differences? Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(539), 544. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.94.3.539.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Grills-Taquechel, A. E., Norton, P., & Ollendick, T. H. (2010). A longitudinal examination of factors predicting anxiety during the transition to middle school. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 23, 493–513. doi:10.1080/10615800903494127.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Hill, N. E., & Tyson, D. F. (2009). Parental involvement in middle school: a meta-analytic assessment of the strategies that promote achievement. Developmental Psychology, 45, 740–763. doi:10.1037/a0015362.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Kingery, J. N., Erdley, C. A., & Marshall, K. C. (2011). Peer acceptance and friendship as predictors of early adolescents adjustment across the middle school transition. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 57, 215–243. doi:10.1353/mpq.2011.0012.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Loke, S. W., & Lowe, P. A. (2013). Examination of the psychometric properties of the environmental school transition anxiety scale. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 31, 459–468. doi:10.1177/0734282912472860.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Lord, S. E., Eccles, J. S., & McCarthy, K. A. (1994). Surviving the junior high school transition: family processes and self-perceptions as protective and risk factors. Journal of Early Adolescence, 14, 162–199. doi:10.1177/027243169401400205.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Midgley, C., & Feldlaufer, H. (1987). Students’ and teachers’ decision-making fit before and after the transition to junior high school. Journal of Early Adolescence, 7, 225–241. doi:10.1177/0272431687072009.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Midgley, C., Feldlaufer, H., & Eccles, J. S. (1988). The transition to junior high school: beliefs of pre-and post-transition teachers. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 17, 543–562. doi:10.1007/BF01537831.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Parker, J. G., Rubin, K. H., Price, J. M., & DeRosier, M. E. (1995). Peer relationships, child development, and adjustment: a developmental psychopathology perspective. In D. Cicchetti & D. J. Cohen (Eds.), Developmental psychopathology, Vol. 2: risk, disorder, and adaptation (pp. 96–161). Oxford: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Pomerantz, E. M., Altermatt, E. R., & Saxon, J. L. (2002). Making the grade but feeling distressed: gender differences in academic performance and internal distress. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94, 396–404. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.94.2.396.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Pyper, J. R., Freiberg, H. J., Ginsburg, M., & Spuck, D. W. (1987). Instrument to measure school climate. In L. W. Barber (Ed.), School climate, Bloomington center on evaluation (pp. 87–96). Bloomington: Phi Delta Kappa.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Rice, F., Frederickson, N., & Seymour, J. (2011). Assessing pupil concerns about transition to secondary school. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 244–263. doi:10.1348/000709910X519333.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Rosenblatt, J. L., & Elias, M. J. (2008). Dosage effects of a preventive social-emotional learning intervention on achievement loss associated with middle school transition. Journal of Primary Prevention, 29, 535–555. doi:10.1007/s10935-008-0153-9.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Sadker, M., & Sadker, D. (1994). Failing at fairness: how American schools cheat girls. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Shahar, G., Henrich, C. C., Winokur, A., Blatt, S. J., Kuperminc, G. P., & Leadbeater, B. J. (2006). Self-criticism and depressive symptomology interact to predict middle school academic achievement. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62, 147–155. doi:10.1002/jclp.20210.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Simmons, R. G., & Blyth, D. A. (1987). Moving into adolescence: the impact of pubertal change and school context. Hawthorne: Aldine de Gruyter.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Sutherland, M. B. (1999). Gender equity in success at school. International Review of Education, 45, 431–443. doi:10.1007/978-94-011-4076-8_4.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Tsouroufli, M. (2002). Gender and teachers’ classroom practice in a secondary school in Greece. Gender and Education, 14, 135–147. doi:10.1080/09540250220133996.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Younger, M., Warrington, M., & Williams, J. (1999). The gender gap and classroom interactions: reality and rhetoric? British Journal of Sociology of Education, 20, 325–341. doi:10.1080/01425699995290.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Zeedyk, M. S., Gallacher, J., Henderson, M., Hope, G., Husband, B., & Lindsay, K. (2003). Negotiating the transition from primary to secondary school: perceptions of pupils, parents, and teachers. School Psychology International, 24, 67–79. doi:10.1177/0143034303024001010.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sara E. Goldstein.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Goldstein, S.E., Boxer, P. & Rudolph, E. Middle School Transition Stress: Links with Academic Performance, Motivation, and School Experiences. Contemp School Psychol 19, 21–29 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40688-014-0044-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • Middle school transition
  • Early adolescence
  • Academic achievement