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CHILDREN’S WELL-BEING DURING TRANSITION PERIODS IN CROATIA: THE PROPOSAL OF EMPIRICAL VALIDATION OF ECOLOGICAL-DYNAMIC MODEL

S. Tatalović Vorkapić

University of Rijeka, Faculty of Teacher Education (CROATIA)
Transition is defined as an intense process of change and movement from one identity to another, determined by the various factors described in the contemporary ecological-dynamic transition model (Rimm-Kaufman & Pianta, 2000). Within transition, the various contexts in which and through which the child passes, and their interrelations over time, are crucial for children’s well-being. Therefore, this socio-cultural understanding of the transition, shows the significant effects of different intra- and interpersonal factors of children, caregivers and educators on successful adaptation of children, and the relationships between those factors. The first studies have shown that the characteristics of a child have 25% of the variance of overall success in adaptation (LaParo & Plant, 1998). Mihić and colleagues have confirmed (2011, 2016) that secure attachment and warm relationships lead to successful adaptation. In addition to the sensibilities and skills of parents and educators, the key relationships in the child's environment, social values, teaching strategies and environment are emphasized. It is also important to point out that there are very few scientific researches in this area in Croatia, and most of them analysed practice of organizing kindergarten work during adaptation (Jukić Lušić & Karabatić, 2003; Rendulić & Veselinović, 2001) or measures for testing the quality of adaptation and attachment (Tatalović Vorkapić, Čargonja Pregelj & Mihić, 2015). In addition, prior studies determined that practices in Croatia are rather different regarding the various kindergartens and primary schools (Pauletić, 2016).

So, this review article presents contemporary theoretical models and empirical studies in the field of transition periods in children’s lives with the aim of postulating the proposal of empirical validation of the ecological-dynamic model in Croatia and the analysis of significant correlates of transition from family to kindergarten, as well as of transition from kindergarten to primary school. This research will provide clear guidelines for parents, teachers and associates in Croatia about ensuring the highest levels of children's well-being during transition for children. On the representative samples of early aged children (transition from family to kindergarten) and preschool children (transition from kindergarten to primary school), the following variables will be explored: intrapersonal factors of children (temperament, socio-emotional well-being, strength and difficulties, resilience), parents/caregivers (personality, sensitivity, subjective well-being, resilience) and teachers (personality, subjective well-being, resilience); and the interpersonal factors of child-parents-teachers-environment (attachment, adaptation, relationship with parents/educators, teaching strategies, relationship between family-kindergarten-school-local community-environment, social values). The quantitative methodology will be applied with reliable measures that will objectively present the perspective of children, parents, teachers and associates. This analysis will contribute to realization of short-term goals by validating the theoretical model and postulating the practical guidelines for achieving optimal transition in the early and preschool period, as well as to realization of long-term goals by preventing the mental health problems among children in Croatia with the aim of enhancing their lifelong psychological well-being.