The Move to Middle School: Parents’ Expectations and Early Adolescents’ Adjustment in Rural Communities

Jill V. Hamm, Kimberly A. Dadisman, Kathleen M. Day, Charlotte A. Agger, Thomas W. Farmer


Parents’ expectations for the middle school transition were investigated in 10 focus groups with 37 parents in two rural Appalachian communities. Parents emphasized their concerns over the social aspects of the transition for their children, particularly relationship changes and exposure to problem behaviors through peers. Moreover, parents whose children attended certain feeder schools feared their children would be socially marginalized in middle school. Student adjustment data collected from 187 6th graders in the associated middle schools were analyzed for evidence of social marginalization or poor adjustment by feeder elementary school. With few exceptions, social integration did not differ by feeder school but students from a particular feeder school experienced greater adjustment difficulties overall, according to self- and teacher-ratings. The findings highlight the need for schools to help parents understand the social transition to middle school and to monitor student adjustment when there are discrepancies across feeder schools.

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Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology   ISSN 1927-0526 (Print)   ISSN 1927-0534 (Online)

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