Most young people’s well-being drops sharply in the first years of secondary school, a British study finds – ScienceDaily


New research shows that most young people in the UK experience a sharp decline in their well-being during their first years of secondary school, regardless of their circumstances or background.

Academics from the Universities of Cambridge and Manchester analyzed the well-being and self-esteem of more than 11,000 young people from across the UK, using data collected when they were 11, and again when they were 14. Presence—their satisfaction with various aspects of life (such as friends, school, and family)—decreased significantly over the intervening years.

It is widely accepted that the well-being and mental health of young people is influenced by factors such as economic conditions and family life. Research shows that, though, well-being tends to decline sharply and across the board during early adolescence.

This decrease is likely related to the transition to secondary school at the age of 11 years. The study determined that the particular aspects of well-being that changed in early adolescence were typically related to school-peer relationships, suggesting a close link with transitions in these youth. Academic and social life.

In addition, students with higher self-esteem at age 11 experienced a significantly lower well-being at age 14. This suggests that structured efforts to boost adolescents’ self-esteem, particularly during the early years of secondary school, could mitigate potential declines in well-being and life satisfaction.

“Although this is a large and diverse group of adolescents, we have seen a consistent decline in well-being,” said Ioannis Katsantonis, PhD researcher at the University of Cambridge’s School of Education, who led the study. “One of the most striking aspects was the clear association with changes in school. It is It signals that we urgently need to do more to support the wellbeing of students in secondary schools across the UK.”

“The link between self-esteem and well-being appears to be particularly important,” said Ross McClellan, associate professor at the University of Cambridge, specialist in student well-being and co-author. Supporting students’ ability to feel positive about themselves during early adolescence is not a cure-all, but it can be very beneficial, Since we know their well-being is at stake.”

Globally, the well-being of adolescents is declining. In the UK, the Children’s Association has shown that 12% of young people aged 10-17 have impairments in well-being. Dr José Marquez, Research Associate at the Institute of Education, University of Manchester, and co-author, said: “Until now, we don’t fully understand how the world suffers from poor well-being. The relationship between well-being and self-esteem is also unclear.”

The researchers used data from the Millennium Cohort Study, which includes a nationally representative sample of people born between 2000 and 2002 and includes standard questionnaires about well-being and self-esteem. They then calculated a well-being “score” for each student, balanced to control for other factors that influence well-being – such as economic advantage, bullying, and a general sense of safety.

While most teens were satisfied with life by the age of 11, the majority were extremely dissatisfied by the age of 14. By this age, 79% of the participants’ well-being scores were below the average score for the entire group three years earlier. . “This is a statistically significant decrease,” Katsantonis said. “It goes further than anything we could classify as moderate.”

The study also collected information about the teens’ satisfaction with certain aspects of their lives, such as school work, personal appearance, family, and friends. This suggests that the most dramatic contractions between ages 11 and 14 may have been related to school and peer relationships.

Despite the overall decrease, students with better well-being at 14-year-olds tended to be those with higher self-esteem at 11-year-olds. However, the pattern did not apply in reverse: improving well-being at age 11 did not predict a better self-later. This suggests a causal relationship in which self-esteem appears to protect adolescents from what may be more severe in well-being.

“Supporting self-esteem is not the only thing we need to do to improve the well-being of young people,” Katsantonis said. “It should never, for example, become an excuse not to address poverty or address bullying — but it can be used to improve life satisfaction for young people at this critical juncture.”

Researchers have identified different ways schools can support this. At a basic level, Katsantonis suggested that celebrating students’ achievements, emphasizing the value of the things they do well, and avoiding negative comparisons with other students can all help.

More strategically, the study suggests integrating more self-esteem-promoting features into wellbeing curricula in England, and underscores the need to ensure similar efforts are made across the UK. Recent studies, for example, have highlighted the potential benefits of mindfulness training in schools, “positive psychology” initiatives that teach adolescents to set achievable personal goals, and to recognize and reflect on their personality strengths.

Added McClellan: “It’s really important that this continues — it can’t be just doing something once when students start high school, or implementing some weird practice here and there. It’s a concerted effort to improve students’ sense of self — value can have really positive results. Many good teachers already do this, but it’s probably more important than we thought.”



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