Trajectories of students’ school climate dimensions throughout middle school transition: a longitudinal study

Vítor Alexandre Coelho*, Ana Maria Romão, Patrícia Brás, George Bear, Ana Prioste

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


In Portugal, transition from elementary to middle school occurs after the fourth grade, which is much earlier than in most other countries. The impact of early transition to middle school on students’ perceptions of school climate is unknown and was a focus of this study. To investigate this issue we conducted two studies. Study 1 served to provide evidence of the validity scores on the Delaware School Climate Survey - Students (DSCS-S), which was the instrument used in second study. Study 2 analyzed the impact of middle school transition on students’ perceptions of school climate, with gender and class size used as moderating variables. The sample in Study 1 consisted of 895 students (49.9% girls; Mage = 11.36, SD = 1.79) from the 4th to the 8th grade, whereas the sample in Study 2 consisted of 313 4th grade students (50.5% girls; Mage = 9.22, SD = 0.69). Results of confirmatory factor analysis conducted in Study 1 supported the predicted bifactor model of scores on the Portuguese version of the DSCS-S. Results of Study 2 showed a negative impact of the transition on school climate, with a decline in all five dimensions assessed. Boys had steeper declines than girls in fairness of rules, school liking, and teacher-student relationships. Students from larger 4th grade classes displayed a more positive trajectory in student-student relationships during middle school transition than students from smaller 4th grade classes. Future studies should analyze how school climate dimensions evolve throughout middle school.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-192
Number of pages18
JournalChild Indicators Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Class-level differences
  • Gender differences
  • Instrument validation
  • Middle school transition
  • School climate


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