Head and Coordination



2012 - 2013

Project ReLari

Relative Age as a Risk Factor in the Education System

The ReLari project investigates the relationship between children's and adolescents' relative age and their learning performance in the school context.

Since the 1960s it has been well-known in educational psychology that the youngest children in classes where the age group is determined by the calendar year are unlikely to obtain high grades - a phenomenon which continues throughout the elementary school experience and results in these children seldom being recommended for or attending the higher tracks at secondary school. Further, the probability of being properly diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or a learning disorder is higher for the younger children in the class. These relative age effects generally are attributed to a complex interaction of developmental and maturity-related differences in individual learning preconditions, pedagogical interventions, feedback, perceptions, and attributions of one’s own academic achievement in a given learning context.

In the ReLari project the correlation between the relative age of children and adolescents and their learning behavior and performance within a single school context was investigated to determine whether the relative age of the children was in fact a risk to their academic achievement. Various methodological and conceptual factors were taken into consideration such as the adequacy of comparisons of children of different ages, the composition of reference groups, the efficacy of self-selective processes in class compositions, as well as the selection of performance indicators. Analysis of data from the SpröM and FLORI projects conducted at the IDeA Center showed minimal relative age effects in the development of basal reading skills, but at the end of grade 2 these effects no longer were verifiable.

Selected Publications

Gold, A. (2013). Vom richtigen Zeitpunkt. Lehren & Lernen, 39, 21-24.

Gold, A., Duzy, D., Rauch, W., & Quiroga Murcia, C. (2012). Relatives Lebensalter und die Entwicklung schulischer Leistungen. Zeitschrift für Bildungsforschung, 2, 193-208.