The Transition to High School: Current Knowledge, Future Directions

Educ Psychol Rev. 2011 Apr 1;23(3):299-328. doi: 10.1007/s10648-011-9152-0.


In the American educational system, school transitions are frequent and predictable, but they can disrupt student functioning across developmental domains. How students experience school transitions has been a focus of research for some time, but the high school transition has received less attention, and the limited research often focuses on a particular developmental domain (e.g., academics and socioemotional well-being) to the exclusion of a more integrated model. This review relies on life course theory to establish an organizational framework for interpreting and connecting the diffuse and sometimes disparate findings on the high school transition, including adolescent developmental trajectories and the influence of social ties, changing sociocultural contexts, and stratification systems. Conclusions identify aspects for future inquiry suggested by current knowledge and the tenets of the life course perspective.