This longitudinal study investigates whether rural adolescents who transition to a new school in sixth grade have higher levels of risky behavior than adolescents who transition in seventh grade. Our findings indicate that later school transitions had little effect on problem behavior between sixth and ninth grades. Cross-sectional analyses found a small number of temporary effects of transition timing on problem behavior: Spending an additional year in elementary school was associated with higher levels of deviant behavior in the Fall of Grade 6 and higher levels of antisocial peer associations in Grade 8. However, transition effects were not consistent across waves and latent growth curve models found no effects of transition timing on the trajectory of problem behavior. We discuss policy implications and compare our findings with other research on transition timing.
Keywords: adolescence; education policy; middle schools; restructuring; rural education.