The Few, the Changing, the Different: Pubertal Onset, Perceived School Climate and Body Image in Ethnically Diverse Sixth Grade Girls

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Morales, Jessica (2012)
  • Publisher: eScholarship, University of California
  • Subject: Pubertal Onset | Percieved School Climate | Psychology | Middle School Transition | Body Image | School Composition
    mesheuropmc: education

The present study examined the impact of pubertal onset, race/ethnicity, and school racial/ethnic composition on girls' body image and perceived school climate (school safety, school liking, and loneliness in school) during the middle school transition. The sample (N = 1,626) included 6th grade Black, Mexican American, White, and Asian girls from 20 diverse middle schools. Hierarchical analyses supported both the early-timing and stressful change hypothesis. That is, experiencing pubertal onset before or during the transition to middle school was associated with more loneliness, less liking of school, and more negative body image. Alternatively, for girls who were non-starters (i.e., who had not begun their first menstruation by the end of the 6th grade), liking of school and feelings of loneliness were buffered. However, findings varied according to students' self-reported race/ethnicity and the ethnic composition of their school. Perceiving oneself as a minority was particularly threatening for girls, especially girls who were White. Findings suggest that both school racial/ethnic contextual factors and pubertal onset status should be considered when examining ways to facilitate the 6th grade transition for girls.
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