Graduation Year

2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Psychological and Social Foundations

Major Professor

Linda R. Mendez, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Julia Ogg, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sarah Kiefer, Ph.D.

Keywords

ECLS-K, eighth grade, externalizing problems, internalizing problems, kindergarten, prosocial behavior

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine how early academic and behavioral variables in kindergarten (i.e., academic performance, first time kindergarten status, early school-related emotional adaptation, prosocial behavior, externalizing behaviors, and internalizing behaviors) were related to academic and behavioral outcomes in eighth grade (i.e., academic performance, retention, suspension, externalizing behaviors, internalizing behaviors, and having an educational/mental health diagnosis). Archival data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K) database that included approximately 5,700 participants from across the U.S., were examined to answer three research questions: (1) How are early academic and behavioral variables related to each other among youth in kindergarten? (2) How are early academic and behavioral variables measured in kindergarten related to academic and behavioral outcomes in eighth grade? (3) To what extent do demographic variables moderate the relations between early academic and behavioral variables and eighth grade outcomes? Results showed that early academic and behavioral variables were relatively independent of each other with two primary exceptions. Teacher perceptions of academic skills in math and reading showed a strong positive relation to each other, and teacher-reported externalizing behavior and prosocial behavior showed a moderate negative relation. In terms of eighth grade outcomes, math skills in kindergarten were predictive of eighth grade outcomes across both the academic and behavioral domains (with the exception of suspension). Reading skills in kindergarten were predictive of eighth grade reading outcomes but none of the behavioral outcomes measured. Additionally, first-time kindergarten status was positively related to reading and math scores in eighth grade and negatively related to having an educational/mental health diagnosis and internalizing behavior problems in eighth grade. With regard to kindergarten behavioral risk factors, externalizing behavior seemed to be the most salient predictor of eighth grade outcomes, showing a negative relationship with eighth grade reading and a positive relationship with suspension, internalizing and externalizing behaviors, and the presence of an educational or mental health diagnosis. Internalizing behaviors in kindergarten did not show the same predictive power as externalizing factors, although they were related to some eighth grade behavioral outcomes. With regard to kindergarten behavioral protective factors, early school-related adjustment was positively related to eighth grade math achievement. It was also negatively related to experiencing retention by eighth grade and eighth grade internalizing and externalizing symptoms. In terms of demographic moderators of relations between early academic and behavioral variables and eighth grade outcomes, gender was a moderator of the relation between kindergarten externalizing behavior and experiencing retention by eighth grade. Females with high levels of externalizing behavior were more likely than males with high levels of externalizing behavior to experience retention. Implications of the study for school-based practice are discussed.

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