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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Positive development in early adolescence : the importance of supportive adults and social competencies for well-being and academic success Oberle, Eva


Social and emotional well-being and academic achievement are key indicators for positive development and resilience in early adolescence. Central assets fostering positive development include contextual assets (e.g., supportive relationships) and personal assets (e.g., social and emotional competencies). Three studies were conducted to explore the relative importance of positive relationships for social and emotional well-being and academic achievement during early adolescence, and whether social and emotional competencies predict academic achievement longitudinally. Study 1 was a population-based cross-sectional study investigating family, school, and neighbourhood support in relation to social and emotional well-being and academic achievement in a socioeconomically (SES) diverse sample of 3,026 4th graders. All contextual assets positively predicted students’ well-being in a regression analysis. A significant interaction between SES and school support indicated that school support had a protective function for low SES students; a significant interaction between SES and family support indicated that family support was more important than SES in predicting students’ well-being. Furthermore, SES and family support were positive predictors of both reading and math achievement. Study 2 investigated the relative importance of personal (optimism) and contextual (positive peer relationships and home, school, and neighbourhood support) assets for life satisfaction in a cross-sectional sample of 1,402 4th to 7th graders. Multilevel modeling analyses suggested that optimism and the four contextual variables significantly and positively predicted life satisfaction. School and neighbourhood support aggregated at the school level significantly predicted life satisfaction beyond their significant role at the individual, non-aggregated level. Study 3 was a short-term longitudinal study examining social and emotional competencies in 461 6th grade students as predictors of academic achievement in grade 7. Regression analyses revealed that social responsibility goals positively predicted reading achievement for boys only. Moreover, teacher-rated social-emotional skills positively predicted reading achievement for both boys and girls. With regard to math, only teacher-rated social-emotional skills predicted academic achievement. The importance of investigating social and emotional well-being and competence in conjunction with personal and contextual assets in early adolescence is discussed. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings along with the strengths and limitations of the three studies are put forth.

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