ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (5): 864-874.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.00864

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School transition during adolescence: Turning crisis into opportunity

CHAI Xiaoyun1, LIN Danhua2()   

  1. 1Department of Applied Psychology, Hubei University of Medicine, Shiyan 442000, China
    2Institute of Developmental Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • Received:2020-05-07 Online:2021-05-15 Published:2021-03-30
  • Contact: LIN Danhua


From the perspective of life course, school transition is considered a key turning point in adolescent development and may alter individual developmental trajectories. Based on the deficit view, previous studies have suggested that most adolescents are at risk, beset by many challenges, and may experience a variety of negative developmental outcomes during that transition. By synthesizing theoretical and methodological dimensions, we consider that school transition period may be an important opportunity for adolescents to achieve adaptive and healthy development. Theoretically, from the positive youth development (PYD) view, if adolescents’ internal and external assets are well integrated, they may have a positive school transition. Thus, we speculated that if adolescent has some high quality external ecological assets (e.g., new teacher’s support and care, parental encouragement), and use these assets to resolve the mismatch between environment and self-need, they may avoid or reduce some negative developmental outcomes. Moreover, based on the stress-related theory, school transition as a stressful event may also create an opportunity for positive development. That is, if adolescents are able to effectively regulate stress, make full use of supportive resources, and develop effective coping strategies, this “stress” will be beneficial to their cognitive, personality, and social development, as well as enhance their resilience. Methodologically, most of the previous studies related to school transition rely on the “variable-centered" approach to describe the developmental characteristics as a whole, but absence of the “individual-centered” approach to pay attention to the heterogeneity in youth at school transition. The “individual-centered” approach (e.g., mixed growth model, latent class and latent transition analysis) will be beneficial to reveal the subgroups of adolescent development trajectory, and thus help us to understand the underlying mechanisms or processes of positive development within adolescent groups. To sum up, drawing on A Relational-Developmental-Systems model of PYD, we propose a positive school transition process model. In this model, firstly, the interaction between external (e.g., teachers’ autonomy support, family warmth and after-school programs) and internal assets (e.g., resilience, growth mindsets and school transition efficacy) in the school transition process is emphasized. Secondly, in terms of developmental outcomes, the positive school transition suggests that adolescents may show high scores in positive indicators and low scores in fewer on negative indicators. Due to the differences in the development assets and self-regulate of individuals, it can be inferred that the development outcomes of adolescents may be diverse during the school transition period, and some adolescents may have a tendency of coexistence of positive and negative characteristics. Finally, understanding the relationship among the variables needs to be placed within the framework of “time”, which means that the “relationships” in multiple level systems are always in a dynamic process of change. Especially, when interpreting the developmental outcomes, it is important to note that the “diversity” at a given moment is only a short-lived “finality” at school transition. In addition, the short-lived “finality” also has a reverse effect on adolescents’ assets and influences acquisition of developmental assets and adaptive regulation and healthy development. Given that the culture-specific principle of human development, future research should explore the mechanism of the positive school transition under China’s education context (e.g., high competitiveness in exam, too much emphasis on academic grades).

Key words: adolescence, school transition, turning point, positive development

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