Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Middle schools and mental health

There is considerable evidence that middle schools (corresponding to late primary/early secondary) in the U.S. play an important role in children's adjustment, not just in terms of their school work but in other areas of life as well. Most studies into how middle school affects children have focused on their academic performance rather than on psychological or behavioural problems but the emergence of depressive symptoms, low self-esteem and behavioural difficulties often coincides with the middle-school years. A New York study of 1,451 children from 11-14 asked them to rate their school's 'climate' (teacher support, children's friendliness, students' autonomy in the classroom and clarity and consistency of school rules) and assessed their psychological and behavioural adjustment. The researchers found that all four measures of school climate declined over time and that these declines were associated with poorer psychological and behavioural adjustment. Girls experienced a sharper decline in friendliness among their peers although they still felt they got on better with their teachers and their peers than boys. The influence of teacher support, peer support and clarity of rules affected the children's psychological and behavioural adjustment but the children's psychological and behavioural adjustment did not affect how they perceived their school's climate i.e. the relationship only worked in one direction.

Way, Niobe, Reddy, Ranjini and Rhodes, Jean - Students’ Perceptions of School Climate During the Middle School Years: Associations with Trajectories of Psychological and Behavioral Adjustment American Journal of Community Psychology (2007) 40:194–213

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