Relative Age Effects in Dutch Adolescents: Concurrent and Prospective Analyses
The literature on relative age position effects is rather inconsistent. In this study we examined intra-classroom age position (or relative age) effects on Dutch adolescents’ school progress and performance (as rated by teachers), physical development, temperamental development (fear and frustration), and depressive symptoms, all adjusted for age at the time of measurement. Data were derived from three waves of Tracking Adolescents' Individuals Lives Survey (TRAILS) of 2230 Dutch adolescents (baseline mean age 11.1, SD = 0.6, 51% girls). Albeit relative age predicted school progress (grade retention ORs = 0.83 for each month, skipped grade OR = 1.47, both p<.001), our key observation is the absence of substantial developmental differences as a result of relative age position in Dutch adolescents with a normative school trajectory, in contrast to most literature. For adolescents who had repeated a grade inverse relative age effects were observed, in terms of physical development and school performance, as well as on depressive symptoms, favoring the relatively young. Cross-cultural differences in relative age effect may be partly explained by the decision threshold for grade retention.