Good health helps children with stressful transitions from elementary school to middle school, finds a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Students with chronic conditions such as asthma, obesity, learning disabilities, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and those with health-related needs, were noted to have lower academic performances.
"Most parents don't know how tough that transition really is," said lead author Christopher Forrest, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "When kids leave elementary school healthy, they're more likely to be good learners in middle school."
Forrest's research group sought to identify how health-related factors affected school outcomes over time. Their research tracked more than 1,000 fourth, fifth and sixth graders from 2006 to 2008 in Maryland and West Virginia, noting chronic health conditions, whether or not the child had gone through puberty, and the presence of health assets such as physical comfort, balanced nutrition and low negative stress.
School outcomes such as grade point average and attendance were compared.
Children with fewer health conditions and who reported more health assets had higher GPAs. Puberty was associated with missing more days of school and poorer school outcomes. However, the presence of more health assets tended to buffer the negative effects of puberty. The study also linked a child's life satisfaction and connection to others, including teachers, to school success.