Transition to high school can be difficult for many teenagers. A study conducted at the University of Laval showed that the presence of an attachment bond to the mother would facilitate the transition from elementary school to high school.
The study was carried out with 627 francophone students in grade 6 elementary school. The study examined the relation between the attachment bond with the mother and the adoption of orientation goals such as mastery goals (e.g. acquiring knowledge and skills), performance goals (e.g. outperforming others) and avoidance goals (e.g. to avoid performing worse than others). Researchers also postulated that perceived academic competence and anxiety symptoms could be key variables to explain this relationship. For this study, teenagers received various questionnaires by mail or responded to them online at the end of the 6th grade of elementary school, and also a year after at the end of their 1st year of high school.
Results indicated that children who perceived a stronger attachment bond with their mother in their 6th year of elementary school had a stronger sense of academic competence and adopted a learning or mastery orientation during the 1st year of high school. In other words, this bond helped the child to feel competent and better able to succeed in learning and focusing on improving his/her academic skills. Moreover, it seems that this attachment bond could protect children from anxiety symptoms where they are simply driven to outperform others or avoid appearing incompetent in a given task.
This study is one of the first to show the importance of maternal attachment and mastery goal orientation during the transition to high school.