Primary to secondary school transitions: analysis

Analysis of experiences relating to the transition from primary to secondary school using data collected from Growing up in Scotland (GUS).

Appendix A: Additional information on selected analysis variables

Quality of Parent-Child Relationship

Children were asked to respond to six statements for each parent or parent figure in their household and say whether the statement is 'always true', 'often true', 'sometimes true' or 'never true'. Responses were given a numeric value and (with a higher value indicating a higher quality relationship, e.g. 'always true'=4) and added together an average score for each child was then calculated, and these average scores were subsequently grouped into 'excellent, 'good' and 'poor'. An 'excellent' relationship score is equivalent to the child answering 'always true' in response to all six statements, while a 'poor' relationship score signals a response of 'sometimes true' or 'never true' across the six items. Measures were derived separately for P6 and S1 data.

Items used to assess parent-child relationship quality: 'My [parent] listens to what I have to say', 'I can count on my [parent] when I have a problem', 'I talk to my [parent] when I'm having a problem', 'If my [parent] knows something is bothering me, they ask me about it', 'I share my thoughts and feelings with my [parent]', 'My [parent] pays attention to me'.

Friendship Quality

Friendship quality was similarly assessed using six child response items. Similar to the approach taken for the measure of parent-child relationship, responses were summed and grouped so that higher values indicated better quality relationships (e.g. 'always true'=4), with a maximum score of 24. This combined score was then divided into three groups: 'excellent' (scores of 22-24), 'good' (scores of 13-21) and 'poor' (scores up to and including 12).

Items used to assess friendship quality: 'My friends listen to what I have to say', 'I can count on my friends to help me when I have a problem', 'I talk to my friends when I am having a problem', 'If my friends know something is bothering me, they ask me about it', 'I share my thoughts and feelings with my friends', 'My friends pay attention to me'.


Child reports of bullying were collected in both P6 and S1. Three separate items were combined to create an overall indicator of bullying at both time points. Responses were 'never', 'every few months', 'about once a month', 'about once a week' and 'most days'. To create a single measure of bullying, each response option was given a numeric value from 1 (never) to 5 (most days). The mean value across the three items was then taken. Mean scores of 2 or more were classified as bullying.

Items used to assess bullying asked children to report how often other children pick on you: 'by calling you names or making fun of you in a way that you don't like'; '…by leaving you out of games and chats' and '…by shoving, pushing, hitting or picking a fight with you'. A further item regarding experience of online bullying was included in the S1 questionnaire but was not included in the analysis because there was no corresponding P6 question.

School size

School size was derived separately for P6 and S1, based on school roll data. The school roll measure was divided into quartiles, and schools in the lowest quartile (the smallest 25% of schools) were characterised as 'small', schools which fell into the middle two quartiles (between the 25th and 75th centiles) were classified as 'medium', and schools which fell into the highest quartile (above the 75th centile, the largest 25% of schools) were classified as 'large'. The resulting classifications of school sizes were as denoted in the table below.

School type No. of pupils
Small primary school < 189
Medium primary school 189 to 364
Large primary school > 364
Small secondary school < 741
Medium secondary school 741 to 1159
Large secondary school > 1159

Upsetting life events

The full list of upsetting life events and proportion of children experiencing them between P6 and S1 (weighted percentages, unweighted base=3,418) were as follows:

Upsetting life event % of all children
death of a parent -
death of a sibling 1%
death of a grandparent of other close relative 2%
parent had serious illness or accident 6%
sibling had serious illness/accident 3%
grandparents separated/divorced 1%
other close relatives separated/divorced 3%
stay in foster home -
drug taking/alcoholism in immediate family 2%
mental disorder in immediate family 5%
death of a pet 18%
conflict between parents 6%
parents in trouble with police 1%
parent in prison 1%
parent lost job 4%
family experienced crime 2%
sibling in trouble with police 1%
child in trouble with police 1%
Other 6%
None of these 45%



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