10 School Adjustment

Educational Psychology

  1. Kathryn R. Wentzel PhD

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop207010

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Wentzel, K. R. 2012. School Adjustment. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 7:10.

Author Information

  1. University of Maryland, Department of Human Development, College Park, MD, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


Being successful at school requires children to perform a range of social as well as academic competencies. In addition to mastering subject matter, developing effective learning strategies, and performing well on tests, children also work to maintain and establish interpersonal relationships, strive to develop social identities and a sense of belongingness, observe and model standards for performance displayed by others, and are rewarded for behaving in ways that are valued by teachers and peers. Quite often, children who succeed in these social endeavors are also the most academically successful students. The centrality of these social activities to classroom functioning reflects the fact that positive forms of social behavior contribute to a classroom environment that is conducive to learning and cognitive development; similarly, positive interpersonal relationships with teachers and peers can motivate and support the development of intellectual competencies. In the present chapter, children's adjustment to school is discussed with respect to those social competencies that facilitate achievement of school-related objectives. Specifically, the focus is on school adjustment as defined by social engagement, in the form of social goal pursuit, behavioral competence, and positive interpersonal relationships. Research on each aspect of social engagement is reviewed, the literature on social processes that promote academic motivation and performance at school is discussed, and the implications of this literature for future work on school adjustment are presented.


  • engagement;
  • social goals;
  • classroom behavior;
  • peer relationships;
  • teacher-student relationships