Children who receive positive feedback and frequent praise from their second-level teachers settle in better after the transition from primary school, while those who are reprimanded more often lose confidence in their ability to do schoolwork.
A report by the Economic and Social Research Institute highlights the importance of creating a more positive second-level school climate, with a move away from the use of negative sanctions, which appear to further alienate young people.
The report, called 'Off to a good start? Primary school experiences and the transition to second-level education', also finds that youngsters who are better at Maths settle into second-level education more easily.
Students who disliked their primary school teacher or school subjects become less confident.
The report found that while most youngsters settle well into their new school, around a fifth are anxious about making new friends and miss their primary school friends.
The study is based on interviews conducted with young people when they were nine and 13 years of age, as well as interviews with their parents and questionnaires completed by their principals and teachers, all conducted as part of the 'Growing up in Ireland' survey.
The transition to second-level is a major landmark in a young person's life.
According to this study they become less confident about their own academic abilities as they move.
The transition is more difficult for girls, for students from more disadvantaged backgrounds, and for young people with special educational needs.
The study finds that young people have fewer transition difficulties if they have more friends and if they can communicate with their parents.
The 13-year-olds interviewed as part of the survey were broadly positive about school, with 66% of girls and 57% of boys stating they liked it 'very much' or 'quite a bit'.
More negative attitudes and poorer attendance levels were found among those from families with lower levels of education and from lone parent families.
Young people with special educational needs were also more negative.
The study authors say the findings indicate the importance of providing an engaging primary school experience as a basis for later engagement, as well as the potential value in rethinking approaches to Maths teaching at primary-level to enhance interest and skills.
They say they also highlight the importance of providing assistance for the majority of students from disadvantaged backgrounds or those who do not attend DEIS or disadvantaged schools.