Purpose: Normative biopsychosocial stressors that occur during entry into adolescence can affect school performance.As a set of resources for adapting to life's challenges, good health may buffer a child from these potentially harmful stressors. This study examined the associations between health (measured as well-being, functioning, symptoms, and chronic conditions) and school outcomes among children aged 9-13 years in 4th-8th grades.
Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study of 1,479 children from 34 schools followed from 2006 to 2008. Survey data were obtained from children and their parents, and school records were abstracted. Measures of child self-reported health were dichotomized to indicate presence of a health asset. Outcomes included attendance, grade point average, state achievement test scores, and child-reported school engagement and teacher connectedness.
Results: Both the transition into middle school and puberty had independent negative influences on school outcomes. Chronic health conditions that affected children's functional status were associated with poorer academic achievement. The number of health assets that a child possessed was positively associated with school outcomes. Low levels of negative stress experiences and high physical comfort had positive effects on teacher connectedness, school engagement, and academic achievement, whereas bullying and bully victimization negatively affected these outcomes. Children with high life satisfaction were more connected with teachers, more engaged in schoolwork, and earned higher grades than those who were less satisfied.
Conclusions: As children enter adolescence, good health may buffer them from the potentially negative effects of school and pubertal transitions on academic success.
Copyright © 2013 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.