The Missing Middle Webinar

Catalysing Connections for Adolescent Health and Wellbeing

The Missing Middle: The Importance of the Middle Years

Thursday 15 October, 3.30 pm to 4.30 pm AEDT, Zoom webinar

On Thursday 15th October 2020, 238 people attended our first virtual Catalysing Connections webinar. The webinar involved a panel discussion with thought leaders in education, adolescent health research and service provision. Elly Robinson hosted the panel discussion on the middle years, addressing:

  • What makes these middle years so important?
  • What can schools do to maintain engagement and support wellbeing through the middle years and the transition to secondary school?
  • What is the impact of COVID-19 likely to be?


To help enact our vision, the CAH run a series of networking events, Catalysing Connections for Adolescent Health and Wellbeing with interested stakeholders. These events bring people together from different disciplines and sectors to discuss the interface between research and policy in adolescent health and wellbeing. Please visit the page for further information and to watch past events.


The middle years, from 8-14 years, have often been described as a phase of ‘latency’. However, we now understand that this is not the case and the middle years are in fact a foundational period for development. Indeed, these middle years are a sensitive phase in social and emotional development, and a time when an individual’s identity emerges. It is during the middle years that an individual begins to engage very differently with his/her social world beyond the immediate family. These years are also the peak time of onset for emotional and behavioural problems; one half of all adult mental disorders have their onset by the age of 14 years with symptoms often appearing well before then. We know there is a close connection between health and education during the middle years and particularly in the transition to secondary school. The transition from primary school is one of the most significant and disruptive events in the lives of young people and coincides with puberty, which brings a suite of physical, biological, and social changes. Yet in contrast with the transition into primary school, research on this phase of life has been scarce and there are currently no effective system-wide evidence-based strategies in Victoria or nationally to support students. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought additional challenges for this cohort in terms of the impact on mental health and school engagement.



Dr Lisa Mundy, Senior Research Fellow and Program Manager, Centre for Adolescent Health, MCRI

Nat Oska, Family Therapist, Drummond Street Services

Kristy Gray, Community Liaison and Engagement Manager, Wyndham Central College

Alasdair Roy OAM, Consultant Psychologist


Elly Robinson, Senior Specialist, Parenting Research Centre

This event is supported by funding from the Geoff and Helen Handbury Family Trust.



Dr Mundy is the program manager for The Childhood to Adolescence Transition Study (CATS), this is a unique longitudinal study following over 1200 children as they transition through puberty to adolescence and from primary school to secondary. All publications from this study can be found here:

Evans-Whipp, T., Mundy, L., Canterford, L., Patton, G. (2018) Student Wellbeing, Engagement and Learning across the Middle Years, Canberra: Australian Government Department of Education and Training

Mundy, L. K., Canterford, L., Tucker, D., Bayer, J., Romaniuk, H., Sawyer, S., … & Patton, G. (2017). Academic performance in primary school children with common emotional and behavioral problemsJournal of School Health87(8), 593-601.


The Childhood to Adolescence Transition Study (CATS) have released a new policy brief, Promoting wellbeing and learning in the middle years: an opportune time for intervention. This brief provides outlines why students in the middle years require attention and recommends methods for policy makers and educators to promote wellbeing and school engagement during this phase of development. It recommends that all states and territories introduce a health promoting framework aimed at strengthening curriculum around social and emotional learning, improving the primary to secondary school transition, and enabling more effective links between education and health services.


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