Cohen S, Gianaros PJ, Manuck SB. A stage model of stress and disease. Perspect. Psychol. Sci. 2016; 11:456-63

Cohen S. Ten surprising facts about stressful life evenys and disease risk. Annual Review of Psychology. 2019; 70:577-597

Ellis BJ, Bianchi J, Griskevicius V, Frankenhuis WE. Beyond risk and protective factors: an adaptation-based approach. Perspectives on psychological science. 2017; 12:561-587

Evans D A Review of the Academic and Psychological Impact of the Transition to Secondary Education Frontiers in Psychology. 2018;

Holmes TH, Rahe RH. 1967. The social readjustment rating scale. J. Psychosom. Res. 1967; 11:213-18

Hughes LA, Banks P, Terras MM. Secondary school transition for children with special educational needs: a literature review. Support Learn. 2013; 28:24-34

Hughes M, Tucker W. Poverty as an Adverse Childhood Experience. N C Med J. 2018; 79:(2)124-126

Karasek R, Baker D, Marxer F, Ahlbom A, Theorell T. Job decision latitude, job demands, and cardiovascular disease: a prospective study of Swedish men. Am. J. Public Health. 1981; 71:694-705

Kessler RC, Amminger GP, Aguilar-Gaxiola S, Alonso J, Lee S, Ustün TB. Age of onset of mental disorders: a review of recent literature. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2007; 20:(4)359-64

Lazarus RS, Folkman S. Stress, Appraisal, and Coping.Berlin: Springer; 1984

Lionetti F, Aron A, Aron EN, Burns GL, Jagiellowicz J, Pluess M. Dandelions, tulips and orchids: evidence for the existence of low-sensitive, medium-senstive and high-sensitive individuals. Translational Psychology. 2018; 8

Monroe SM. Modern approaches to conceptualizing and measuring human life stress. Annu. Rev. Clin. Psychol. 2008; 4:33-52

Praharso N. Stressful life transitions and wellbeing: A comparison of the stress buffering hypothesis and the social identity model of identity change. Psychiatry Research. 2017; 247:265-275

Thornton S. Fostering resilience. British Journal of Child Health. 2021; 2:114-116

Thornton S, Gliga T. Understanding Developmental Psychology.London: Red Globe Press; 2021

Vismara L. Perinatal Parenting Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Outcomes in First-Time Mothers and Fathers: A 3-to 6-Months Postpartum Follow-Up Study Frontiers in Psychology. 2016; 7

Waters S How Does Support From Peers Compare With Support From Adults as Students Transition to Secondary School?. Journal of adolescent health. 2014; 54:543-549

Wethington E, Brown GW, Kessler RC. Interview measurement of stressful life events. In: Cohen S, Kessler RC, Gordon LU. Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press; 1997

Zeedyk MS, Gallacher J, Henderson M, Hope G, Husband B, Lindsay K. Negotiating the transition from primary to secondary school: perceptions of pupils, parents and teachers. Sch. Psychol. Int. 2003; 24:67-79

Understanding stress and resilience in the transition to secondary school

02 October 2023
Volume 4 · Issue 5


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).

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting Journal of Child Health and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for children’s health professionals. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:

What's included

  • Limited access to our clinical or professional articles

  • New content and clinical newsletter updates each month