Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Adolescent adjustment in rural Appalachian youth

Early adolescence can be a difficult experience for many youth. This complex phase of development occurs as children transition to middle school. Within middle school, adolescents are faced with new challenges including ever changing peer groups and different educational and behavioral expectations. These challenges have been recognized as having some bearing on adolescent adjustment to school. Similarly, the relationships adolescents have at school have been associated with academic adjustment. In the current investigation, it was anticipated that the relational context in which adolescents operate at school should also be linked to other indices of adjustment-- social and behavioral-- by the end of their year in the sixth grade. Thus, the objective of this research was to ascertain the association between sixth grade adjustment and social integration, sense of belonging, and emotional risk relational dynamics that operate within the relational context of middle school community. The sixth grade is generally distinguished as a transition year in the lives of youth. Their move from the elementary school to a new and distinctively different school structure makes the transition challenging. The relational context in which young adolescents function as they navigate the novel environment is proposed to play a role in adolescent adjustment. Many studies have focused on adolescent adjustment, in terms of academic achievement. However, as individuals develop and progress through the developmental trajectory as a whole, adjustment should encompass social, behavioral, as well as academic elements. Considering this, there is a need to examine this phenomenon within a relational context that speaks to the social, behavioral, and cognitive components that would augment an understanding of adjustment. Consequently, the investigation utilized hierarchical linear regression analysis to facilitate comprehension of the extent to which sixth grade adjustment is associated with social integration, sense of belonging, and perceptions of emotional risk within middle school. In addition, the study sought to clarify whether or not gender functioned as a moderator between the dependent variable sixth grade adjustment and each of the independent factors (social integration, sense of belonging, and emotional risk). Analyses demonstrated lack of moderation by gender but revealed significant main effects. Notably, the results suggest that sense of belonging and group centrality matter to adjustment. The significance, limitations, and implications of this study for education and related research are discussed.