TCELT research seminar - December 2023
Wednesday 6 December 2023
Conceptualising the Primary to Secondary School Transition within the Theoretical Framework of Ecosocial Theory
Dr Caitlyn Donaldson is a Research Associate at DECIPHer, a public health research centre at Cardiff University, UK. Her research interests include young people’s mental health, health inequalities and school transition. She worked for a public health charity for 15 years before moving into academia and currently works as a data analyst for the expansion of the School Health Research Network (SHRN) – a network of all state-maintained secondary schools in Wales – into primary schools. She is soon to take up a role at the Wolfson Centre for Young People’s Mental Health at Cardiff University supporting the evaluation of the Whole School Approach to Mental Health and Wellbeing in Wales. Email: DonaldsonCJ@cardiff.ac.uk
For some young people, the transition from primary to secondary school is a stressful life event, with the potential to influence mental health and academic outcomes in the short and long term. Risk factors for a poor transition experience include having additional learning needs and low socioeconomic status, both of which affect mental health in interaction with the school environment to which a child transitions. Ecosocial theory is a theory of epidemiology that provides a framework for understanding why disparities in population health occur. This paper considers the four core tenets of ecosocial theory from the perspective of school transition: the embodiment of mental health; pathways to embodiment; cumulative interplay of exposure, susceptibility and resistance; and accountability and agency. It uses socioeconomic inequality as an illustration of one pathway to embodiment that creates inequality in mental health outcomes and argues that schools have an important role to play in creating environments that make the transition from primary to secondary school less stressful for all students, in order to reduce inequalities.
Donaldson, C., Moore, G., Hawkins, J. (2023). Conceptualising the Primary to Secondary School Transition within the Theoretical Framework of Ecosocial Theory. International Journal of Educational and Life Transitions, 2(1): 19, pp. 1–17. DOI: 10.5334/ijelt.61