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01-09-2013 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 9/2013

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 9/2013

Academic Success Across the Transition from Primary to Secondary Schooling Among Lower-Income Adolescents: Understanding the Effects of Family Resources and Gender

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 9/2013
Lisa A. Serbin, Dale M. Stack, Danielle Kingdon


Successful academic performance during adolescence is a key predictor of lifetime achievement, including occupational and social success. The present study investigated the important transition from primary to secondary schooling during early adolescence, when academic performance among youth often declines. The goal of the study was to understand how risk factors, specifically lower family resources and male gender, threaten academic success following this “critical transition” in schooling. The study involved a longitudinal examination of the predictors of academic performance in grades 7–8 among 127 (56 % girls) French-speaking Quebec (Canada) adolescents from lower-income backgrounds. As hypothesized based on transition theory, hierarchical regression analyses showed that supportive parenting and specific academic, social and behavioral competencies (including spelling ability, social skills, and lower levels of attention problems) predicted success across this transition among at-risk youth. Multiple-mediation procedures demonstrated that the set of compensatory factors fully mediated the negative impact of lower family resources on academic success in grades 7–8. Unique mediators (social skills, spelling ability, supportive parenting) also were identified. In addition, the “gender gap” in performance across the transition could be attributed statistically to differences between boys and girls in specific competencies observed prior to the transition, as well as differential parenting (i.e., support from mother) towards girls and boys. The present results contribute to our understanding of the processes by which established risk factors, such as low family income and gender impact development and academic performance during early adolescence. These “transitional” processes and subsequent academic performance may have consequences across adolescence and beyond, with an impact on lifetime patterns of achievement and occupational success.

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