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Understanding stress and resilience in the transition to secondary school

02 October 2023
Volume 4 · Issue 5

Abstract

The transition between primary and secondary school can be very stressful for children and have a substantial impact on their mental health and wellbeing. Stephanie Thornton explores factors that may exhacerbate or mitigate stress.

The transition from primary to secondary education has long been recognised as a major challenge for children, with the potential to adversely affect academic performance, socio-emotional welfare and mental health (Zeedyk et al, 2003; Evans et al, 2018). How well the transition is handled is important, both from the child's perspective, and for society. Yet despite decades of research, there is still a great deal we don't understand about why this transition can be so stressful, or how best to mitigate that stress to protect academic performance, emotional welfare and mental health, or how to target resources to protect the most vulnerable.

One striking feature of research reviews is the sheer complexity of the phenomena revealed, and the inconsistency of findings (Evans et al, 2018). Although there is general consensus that this transition may damage academic progress and psychological welfare, there is considerable variation across studies, individuals, and groups of children. For example, whereas most studies report an increase in anxiety through this transition, some report a decrease in some groups (see Evans et al [2018] for a review).

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