Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation




Clinical-Community Psychology

First Advisor

Bret Kloos


This research examines 9th grade students' changing perceptions of school social climate during their first semester of high school. Positive perceptions of social climate are related to numerous social and academic well-being factors, suggesting that students' climate perceptions may act as a buffer against some of the well-documented negative high school transition effects, such as declines in grades and satisfaction with peers. In this research, quantitative factors--student demographics and student engagement in school, operationalized as GPA, participation in activities, and number of disciplinary problems--are utilized to understand variability in student perceptions of climate during their fist semester of high school. Qualitative factors are also used to understand variability, as a sub-set of 10 ninth graders whose reported negative perceptions of climate described their overall transition experiences in interviews. Findings replicate other studies showing a general decline in students' perceptions of school climate from the beginning of high school to the end of the first semester. However, this was not a uniform finding; cluster analysis suggests different pathways by which students navigate the process of transitioning into the 9th grade and qualitative findings help contextualize the role that climate perceptions play in contributing to student adjustment to their new school setting. Findings have implications for the design of 9th grade transition and other drop-out prevention programming.