School of Criminology

Congratulations to Jessica Bouchard on her successful PhD defence

January 22, 2024

Congratulations to Jessica Bouchard, who successfully defended her PhD thesis "Are the Kids Alright? Toward Best Practices for Students' Successful Transition to Secondary School," on January 19, 2024. 


Numerous studies have demonstrated that the transition from primary to secondary school can be difficult for students (e.g., Benner et al., 2017). For example, many students are challenged by adjusting to a new school environment, new academic demands, and new social pressures (e.g., Chambers & Coffey, 2019; Jindal-Snape et al., 2020). Overall, there is a pressing need for empirical research to inform interventions that can facilitate a smooth transition to high school for adolescents (Bharara, 2020; Donaldson et al., 2023). To do so, it is important to better understand the challenges experienced by adolescents during the transition to high school, as well as evaluate the effectiveness of school transition programs. Using a longitudinal dataset of 798 grade 7 students from metro Vancouver, British Columbia, the three articles presented in this dissertation aim to address these gaps by examining the experiences of adolescents as they navigate the primary-secondary school transition. Specifically, this dissertation focuses on how students’ experiences with the transition to high school differ by gender, and whether participation in the metro Vancouver YWCA Youth Education Program (YEP; an afterschool group mentoring program that focuses on youth’s transition to high school) facilitates students’ transition from primary to secondary school. 

In Study 1, using a mixed-methods approach, students’ concerns about high school are examined before and after their transition to secondary school. Study 2 quantitatively examines youths’ peer relationships across the primary-secondary school transition. This study also examines if the YEP has a positive impact on students’ peer relationships. Last, Study 3 focuses on adolescent delinquency throughout the transition to high school. This study also assesses the impact of the YEP on youths’ attitudes toward delinquency and their association with delinquent peers. 

Overall, several broad conclusions can be drawn from this dissertation regarding youths’ experiences with the transition to high school, gender differences in this experience, and the effectiveness of afterschool group mentoring programs, like the YWCA YEP, on youth outcomes. Implications for policy and practice are discussed, and directions for future research are provided.

We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Jessica Bouchard and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.