Introduction: Initiatives to support children's adaptation to school life in the transition from preschool to elementary school
The so-called "Transition from preschool to elementary school," which means the transition from infanthood to childhood, is associated with various changes in the living environment, lifestyle habits and learning habits. Since the phenomenon called "First-grader Problem (Shimpo, 2001)" has drawn the attention of society, more active initiatives have been taken to promote children's adaptation to school life in the transition from preschool to elementary school. The "First-grader Problem" refers to the difficulties encountered by certain first-graders who cannot adapt to group living in elementary school. For example, there are some initiatives to introduce lifestyle habits in the second and third years of kindergarten, with elementary school life in mind. Or an exchange event may be conducted to interact with the students of the elementary school in which the children are going to enroll. These initiatives are advocated under the "Elementary School Start Curriculum" (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, 2008) and carried out in various schools. In addition, data to verify the effects of these initiatives on children's adaptation to school life is being accumulated. Meanwhile, there is still a shortage of longitudinal studies on children's mental health in the transition to school. It is considered that assessing the mental health of each child is useful to clarify the various factors maintaining and supporting children's adaptation to school life.
Quality of Life (QOL) of children
Quality of Life (QOL) is one of the indicators to comprehensively measure the physical and mental health status of children in their daily lives. The KINDLR questionnaire (Ravens-Sieberer & Bullinger, 1998) is most frequently used to measure children's QOL, evaluating the six dimensions of physical well-being, emotional well-being, self-esteem, family, friends, and everyday life (school or daycare center/kindergarten).
The KINDLR provides the self-report version (by interview) for children and additional questions for parents, which has been translated into more than 20 languages. The Japanese version was created by Furusho, Shibata, Nemoto, and Matsuzaki (2014) with the self-report version for children and the parent's version to be used for infants, elementary school children, and elementary/junior high school students, for all of which appropriateness and reliability were confirmed.
Developmental changes in children's QOL in the transition to school
This study targeted a sample of 107 families (54 boys and 53 girls) who answered two questionnaire surveys (by mail) when their child was in the 5-6 year-old class and in the first year of elementary school. All respondents were mothers. The average age in months of the children of the respondents was 76.82 months (SD=3.14) when they were in the 5-6 year-old class and 88.83 months (SD=3.36) when they were in the first year of elementary school (after enrollment), while the average age of mothers was 38.59 (SD=4.54) when their child was in the 5-6 year old class.
The comparison analysis of the six sub-scales and the overall scale was conducted regarding changes in children's QOL before and after their enrollment in elementary school. As a result, the score of the "everyday life (school or daycare center/kindergarten)" sub-scale and the total score of the overall QOL are lower after enrollment than those before enrollment (see Table 1). According to the report on developmental changes in children's QOL targeting elementary/junior high school students by Shibata and Matsuzaki (2014), the total score of QOL decreases as the grade level ascends. The results of this study confirmed the same declining trend in the transition to school as mentioned in the report of Shibata, et al. (2014). In addition, the survey on "concerns and worries about your child's life" targeting mothers with children in the transition to school conducted by the Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute shows that the majority of the respondents with children in the third year of kindergarten answered "Interaction with Peers" when they were asked what they were most concerned about regarding their child. However, the majority of the respondents with children in the first year of elementary school answered "Study and Learning Matters" (Tamura, 2013). Some mothers also answered that they were worried that their child "hated to do homework and could not prioritize his/her work." In other words, it is assumed that the lower QOL score of "everyday life (school or daycare center/kindergarten)" after enrollment reflects mothers' stronger perception towards children's behavior in learning tasks (such as homework) than before enrollment, as shown in the survey of "Concerns and Worries about Your Child's Life."
(Before and after enrollment to school/gender)
Correlation between children's QOL and parents' self-esteem in the transition to school
To examine the correlation between children's QOL and "mothers' self-esteem," I have translated the manual titled "The Self-Perception Profile for Adults" (Messer & Harter, 1986) into Japanese and used the six items of the Global Self-Worth scale (equivalent to self-esteem). The results show that mother's high self-esteem when her child is in the third year of kindergarten positively affects the QOL level of the child in the first year of elementary school. According to the survey on factors affecting children's QOL targeting parents of the first child aged zero to two by Sugawara (2015), it is reported that the favorable conditions of children's life and their physical/mental status are affected by the QOL of their parents. Since the correlation between children's QOL after enrollment and mothers' self-esteem before enrollment was also confirmed in this study, there is the possibility that parents' mental health affects the QOL of children who are in transition to school.
Conclusion: Importance of parents' self-esteem when their child is in transition to school
In his study on QOL targeting parents of children aged five and seven (2011), Sakakihara confirmed that there is a positive correlation between children's QOL and the parents' QOL. Based on the results of the survey, he noted that "Parents need to be happy first if the happiness of their child is wished for" (Sakakihara, 2017). The results of this study also indicate the importance of parents' attitudes in which parents should "respect themselves" and "have affection towards themselves" to maintain and promote children's QOL.
In particular, in the transition from preschool to elementary school, not only children but also their parents face drastic changes in their living and learning environments. Parents have various difficulties in supporting their child's transition to school before and after enrollment, as implied by the term "Barrier of First-Graders" (referring to the difficulty in finding secure facilities for children after school and during long-term school holidays, which working parents need to overcome). By enhancing initiatives to solve the problem of "Barrier of First-Graders" such as the initiative of the "After School Child Comprehensive Plan (Cabinet Office, 2015)," it is possible to promote parents' mental health, and thus, indirectly improve children's QOL.
In this study, I examined factors directly and indirectly affecting children's QOL in the transition to school with a sample of mothers. I intend to conduct further longitudinal studies, by collecting data not only from mothers but also from fathers, thoroughly assessing social and economic factors as well as child-parent relationships by gender.
*This report was prepared based on data obtained from Child Science (Maeshiro and Sakai, 2018) and the poster presentation in the annual conference of Japanese Society of Child Science (Kazumi Maeshiro, Takayuki Umezaki, Hiroko Maekawa, Yuriko Norisada, Ayako Sakai, Yuka Tanaka, Eiji Takahashi, Hiroto Murohashi, Satoko Matsumoto, and Atsushi Sakai, 2018).
- Furusho, J., Shibata, R., Nemoto, Y., & Matsuzaki, K. (Eds), (2014), Understanding and Use of the QOL Scale for Children: the Japanese Version of KINDLR to Evaluate Physical/Mental Health, SHINDAN TO CHIRYO SHA, Inc.
- Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, (2008), Guidelines for the Course of Study for Elementary Schools (Living), Nihon Bunkyou Shuppan Co., Ltd.
- Maeshiro, K., & Sakai, A. (2018) Assessment on the Development of Children's QOL and Related Factors in the Transition to School: Focusing on Parents' Self-Esteem and Attitudes Towards Child-Rearing, Child Science, 16, 19-24.
- Maeshiro, K., Umezaki, T., Maekawa, H., Norisada, Y., Sakai, A., Tanaka, Y., Takahashi, E., Murohashi, H., Matsumoto, S., & Sakai, A. (2018), Longitudinal Study Project relating to the Development of Social Skills in Childhood (18): QOL of Children in the Transition to School, in the 15th annual conference of Japanese Society of Child Science held at Doshisha Women's College of Liberal Arts.
- Messer, B. & Harter, S.(1986). The Self-Perception Profile for Adults Manual and Questionnaires, University of Denver.
- Cabinet Office (2015) 2015 Declining Birthrate White Paper
- Ravens-Sieberer, U. & Bullinger, M. (1998a). Assessing health related quality of life in chronically ill children with the German KINDL: first psychometric and content analytical results. Quality of Life Research, Vol. 7, Issue 5.
- Sakai, A., Maeshiro, K., Maekawa, H., Norisada, Y., Kaminaga, M., Umezaki, T., Tanaka, Y., & Takahashi, E. (2012), Longitudinal Study Project relating to the Development of Social Skills in Childhood (1): Child-Rearing Support Network for Parents and Correlation between Child-Rearing Attitudes and Young Children's Problematic Behavior, Handbook of the 15th Annual Conference of the Japanese Association of Educational Psychology, 402.
- Yoichi Sakakihara (2011), Growing Environment and Gaps that Affect Children's Quality of Life and Mental Health (in Japanese)
https://kaken.nii.ac.jp/ja/file/KAKENHI-PROJECT-21402044/21402044seika.pdf (in Japanese)
- Yoichi Sakakihara (2017), Happy Parents Make Happy Children, Child Research Net,
- Shibata, R., & Matsuzaki, K., (2014), Chapter 1 Basic Level 7: Practical Use of the QOL Scale, Furusho, J., Shibata, R., Nemoto, R., & Matsuzaki, K., (Eds) (2014) in Understanding and Use of the QOL Scale for Children: the Japanese Version of KINDLR to Evaluate Physical/Mental Health, SHINDAN TO CHIRYO SHA, Inc., 29-37．
- Shimpo, M., (2001), Challenging to "First-grader Problem: Write a love letter to children, Meijitosho Shuppan Corporation
- Sugawara, M., (2011), Chapter 6 Characteristics of family QOL; Report on the 2nd Basic Survey on Pregnancy, Delivery, and Child Rearing (cross-sectional survey), Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute, vol.9, 106-117.
- Sugawara, M., (2015), Quality of Life and Development in Childhood: From Pregnancy to Adolescence, Journal of Japanese Society of Child Health Nursing, vol.24(3), 56-63.
- Tamura, S., (2013), Worries and Issues of Parents of Children before and after Enrollment, (in Japanese) Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute,
https://berd.benesse.jp/berd/focus/2-youshou/activity3/ (in Japanese)