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Friendships help kids make the move to secondary school

Children who undertake more activities, including informal activities with friends and more structured extracurricular activities, may cope better with the transition from primary school to secondary school.

That is the finding of research presented on Friday (5 May), to the annual conference of the British Psychological Society in Brighton by doctoral researcher Helen Drew from the University of Sussex.

Along with her PhD supervisor Professor Robin Banerjee, Helen surveyed 484 children aged between ten and thirteen – school years 6, 7 and 8.

The children were asked to complete surveys measuring their social activities, the support they received from friends and adults, psychological factors such as their self-esteem and self-efficacy, and their mental health and wellbeing. They answered the same questions at two different times, six months apart.

The results suggest that children with higher levels of social activity demonstrated greater wellbeing, and indicate that this may be because taking part in these activities helped improve their self-esteem and self-belief. 

Helen said: “The transition from primary to secondary school can be a challenging time for young people. Studies have shown an increase in mental health problems and a decline in wellbeing in the early secondary school years.

“Our findings show how everyday peer interactions and the quality of peer relationships at this time, particularly positive qualities in best friendships, are strong predictors of psychological adjustment, over and above the sense of support from adults in  young adolescents.”

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Posted on behalf of: School of Psychology
Last updated: Monday, 8 May 2017

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