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Transition from primary to secondary school and young people’s mental health

Donaldson, Caitlyn 2022. Transition from primary to secondary school and young people’s mental health. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The transition from primary to secondary school is an important life event for young people that has the potential to impact their mental health. Yet there is insufficient evidence of the factors associated with mental health across this period, or how interventions might improve transition experiences. This thesis uses ecosocial theory to conceptualise school transition as an exposure that interacts with the social, historical, ecological and political environment in which a child lives, leading to embodiment of mental health over the life course. It uses quantitative methods (latent class growth analysis and multi-level modelling), as well as effect direction plots within a systematic review, to better understand how different individual and environmental factors influence young people’s mental health over this period. The quantitative analyses demonstrate that young people from poorer backgrounds, those with special educational needs and those who have experienced negative life events, tend to have worse mental health in the first year of secondary school. At an ecological level, school culture, in particular high school meaningfulness is associated with increased mental wellbeing in year 7 students. Social and psychological outcomes appear to be more easily modified than behavioural outcomes using transition interventions, and too few interventions are premised on a clear theory of change, or consider how they might be exacerbating mental health inequality. The thesis concludes that school transition may evoke pathways to embodied injustice that hold across different contexts, although further analyses are needed to understand these contexts and the mechanisms of action involved. There is also a need to situate transition more fully within a life course approach by incorporating mental health data from earlier in primary school rather than solely the later stages. Finally, evidence is needed on how schools can create cultures that are meaningful for all children, irrespective of background.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 3 January 2023
Last Modified: 03 Jan 2024 02:30

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