Children’s perspective on fears connected to school transition and intended coping strategies

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

2 Citations (Scopus)


The transition from primary to secondary school comes with major changes in the lives of children. There is a shortage of in-depth analyses of young people’s perspectives concerning their fears and strategies to address these. This qualitative study aims to gain first-hand understanding of children’s fears and the intended coping strategies used during school transition. Data from 52 workshops were analysed, with a total of 896 students (M age = 10.40, SD =.839) in lower Austria. First, in the classroom setting, a vignette story about a child facing fears about school transition from primary to secondary school was developed with pupils in a brainstorming session. This was followed by self-selected small group discussions, where pupils proposed strategies to help cope with these fears. A thematic analysis was carried out. Major thematic clusters distinguished between four types of fears: peer victimisation, being alone, victimisation by authority figures, and academic failure. Three additional thematic clusters described strategies for countering the fears: enacting supportive networks, personal emotion regulation, and controlling behaviour. In addition to these connected clusters, two further themes were identified: strategy outcomes and consequences, i.e., personal experiences with using specific strategies, and the discussion of participants about contradictions and questionable usefulness of identified strategy outcomes. In conclusion, the children in our study reported more social fears as compared to academic fears. Children seem reasonably competent at naming and identifying strategies; however, maladaptive strategies, as well as controversies within the described strategies may indicate a lack of certainty and competence at engaging with these strategies on a practical level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-637
Number of pages35
JournalSocial Psychology of Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


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