Coping with change: adolescents' experience of the transition to secondary and boarding school

Downs, Jacqueline (2001) Coping with change: adolescents' experience of the transition to secondary and boarding school. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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It appears that very little research has been conducted in Australia on how the transition to secondary school is perceived by young adolescents. Similarly there is a paucity of literature on the effects of relocation and the concept of homesickness, especially within the context of students starting boarding school. This thesis contributes to knowledge of adolescent transitions as normative adjustment or turmoil. These issues were explored by comparing day students with boarders in a longitudinal study of 74 students in their first year (Grade 8) of secondary and boarding school in a rural remote town in North Queensland. The study focussed on the students' perceptions: of themselves and their social contexts of home and school, and examined changes over the school year. Based on previous research exploring homesickness in boarding students (Downs, 1992), from a developmental perspective which included the concept of place identity (Proshansky & Fabian, 1987), this study aimed to identify psycho-social and environmental factors that may influence adjustment, with implications for interventions. The initial sample (N=74) comprised 35 day students and 39 boarders (29 boys and 45 girls) at two private secondary schools. Questionnaires, individual interviews and group work examined students' perceptions of their social contexts. Repeated self-report measures included Reynolds (1987) Adolescent Depression Scale, Dundee Relocation Inventory (see Fisher, 1989), Adolescent Coping Scale (Frydenberg & Lewis, 1993a), Self Description Questionnaire-II (Marsh, 1990), and the Impact of Life Events Scale (Adams & Adams, 1991). Findings indicated that most of the students perceived that they had adapted well to the transition to secondary and boarding school, with emphases on peer interactions and school-work. Overall normal levels of depressive symptomatology, positive self-concept and functional ways of coping with concerns were indicative of adjustment rather than turmoil. Positive identification with home, school and self contributed to adjustment, whilst there were associations among measures of depression, homesickness, self-concept and coping which were also related to negative perceptions of family and/or school contexts and perceived adaptation. Homesickness was identified as a distinct phenomenon, which could be discriminated from, but also include, depressive symptomatology. Whereas at the beginning of the year 90% of boarders were homesick, it remained problematic for 20% of the students. Gender differences were identified: boarding girls remained more homesick and depressed than the boys and there were similarities between male boarders and female day students in negative associations between homesickness and self-concept, and the use of non-productive coping strategies. Homesickness is explained as a normal adaptive developmental process of place identity, which however, if protracted, can impede positive identification with the school setting and adjustment. This has implications for interventions which could include group processes that enable students to share problems and solutions. It is proposed that enhancing place identity may ameliorate the turmoil of factors such as depression and low self-concept. The thesis concludes with suggestions for how parents, students, and staff can address homesickness and facilitate adjustment in the transition to secondary and boarding school.

Item ID: 28060
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: homesickness; school students; boarding schools; adolescents; depression; coping
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2013 07:08
FoR Codes: 17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170199 Psychology not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920410 Mental Health @ 100%
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