The roles of attachment and individual and family factors in predicting secondary school performance



Successfully adjusting to school is one of the most important developmental tasks during childhood and adolescence.

School adjustment, which encompasses academic and social skills as well as behavioural conduct, is influenced by the emotional climate that characterizes the parent-child relationships within the family. The period from ages 14 to 15, which corresponds to the second cycle of secondary school, is particularly critical in determining early school dropout or retention.

The period from ages 14 to 15 is particularly critical in determining early school dropout or retention.

While existing work on predicting academic success shows that significant interindividual differences already exist at the time of school entry, the role of the family environment during the preschool and school years and its influence on the development of the skills necessary for school adjustment at adolescence remain poorly understood and relatively little studied.

With this in mind, the goal of this research project is to better understand the interdependence of the socio-affective and educational characteristics of the family environment in predicting school adjustment in adolescence. The project also aims to study the explanatory mechanisms (parent-child communication, self esteem and the capacity for self-regulation) in order to identify possible mediating factors for risk pathways.

Our findings suggest that it is important to educate parents of preschoolers, and even infants, on how to become a secure base for their child and to promote secure attachment. We should focus on improving parent-child communication patterns during the preschool period, because this could have beneficial effects during the first years of secondary school. Furthermore, parents need to be provided with the tools necessary to adequately renegotiate the structure of the parent-child relationship in adolescence.

Main researcher

Ellen Moss, Université du Québec à Montréal

Research report

Call for proposals

Deposit of the research report: October 2007