University of Oulu

Heuser-Spura, K.M.; Jaekel, J.; Wolke, D. The Impact of Formal School Entry on Children’s Social Relationships with Parents, Siblings, and Friends. Children 2021, 8, 891.

The impact of formal school entry on children’s social relationships with parents, siblings, and friends

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Author: Heuser-Spura, Katharina M.1,2; Jäkel, Julia3,4; Wolke, Dieter4,5
Organizations: 1Department of Pediatrics I, Neonatology, Pediatric Intensive Care and Pediatric Neurology, University Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, 45122 Essen, Germany
2Faculty of Psychology, Ruhr-University Bochum, 44801 Bochum, Germany
3Unit of Psychology, Faculty of Education, University of Oulu, 90570 Oulu, Finland;
4Department of Psychology, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK;
5Division of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2021
Publish Date: 2022-02-07


The normative transition to formal schooling confronts children with social challenges but also opportunities. Longitudinal research on how school entry impacts children’s family and friend-ship relationships is scarce. This study investigated social relationship qualities with parents, siblings, and friends among 1110 children (49.9% female) from the prospective, population-based Bavarian Longitudinal Study at 6 years (before school entry) and 8 years using a forced-choice card-sorting task. Multivariate analyses of variance revealed significant effects of age (i.e., school entry) on social relationship qualities with mothers (Pillai’s Trace (PT) = 0.28, F(9, 1101) = 47.73, p <0.001), fathers (PT = 0.14, F(9, 1101) = 19.47, p<0.001), siblings (PT = 0.27, F(9, 1101) = 46.14, p<0.001), and friends (PT = 0.21, F(9, 1101) = 32.57, p<0.001). On average, children reported higher levels of parental comfort after school entry. Companionable qualities increased in relationships with friends, whereas sibling relationships became more conflictual from preschool to early school age. Findings provide unique insights into how social relationships develop from preschool to early school age, supporting evidence of the growing importance of friends. Conflict was predominant and increasing in sibling relationships and should be considered more in future research.

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Series: Children
ISSN: 2227-9067
ISSN-E: 2227-9067
ISSN-L: 2227-9067
Volume: 8
Issue: 10
Article number: 891
DOI: 10.3390/children8100891
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 515 Psychology
Funding: This research was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), grant numbers PKE24 and JUG14. D.W. was supported by EU Horizon 2020, grant number 733280 RECAP. The APC was funded by the University Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.
Copyright information: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (