Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: The Association of Peer Behavioral Regulation with School Readiness Skills in Preschool

Friday, November 13, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Natalia Rojas, New York University
An increasing number of young children nationally participate in preschool education, yet very little is known about peer effects.  This study determined whether peer effects are present in this earliest sector of schooling. Research has shown that children’s own behavioral regulation is associated with their academic outcomes, not much is known about how children are affected by classmates with poor behavioral regulation. This study will begin to fill the gaps in our understanding of preschool peer effects in the form of peers’ behavioral regulation on children’s school readiness skills. It addresses these research questions: (1) Is the average level and amount of variation of peers’ behavioral regulation skills in a classroom associated with growth in children’s school readiness outcomes in preschool (motor, concepts, and language)? (2) Do these associations differ for children with high and low initial levels of behavioral regulation?

Method. The analytic sample is drawn from the ParentCorps Evaluation, a longitudinal cluster-randomized trial testing a family-focused, school-based intervention study (N=1050 children in 99 classrooms drawn from 10 schools in low-income urban neighborhoods).  Behavioral regulation was assessed using Developmental Indicators for the Assessment of Learning (DIAL) Behavioral Observations (Mardell-Czudnowski & Goldenberg, 1998). The items used for this analysis included two three-item subscales: Responsiveness and Attention. School readiness skills were evaluated with the Developmental Indicators for the Assessment of Learning–3 (Speed DIAL–3; Mardell-Czudnowski & Goldenberg, 1998). The DIAL–3 is a standardized test that assesses motor, language and conceptual skills related to school readiness.

Results. To assess the primary research aims, two-level models were estimated using hierarchical linear modeling to examine the effects of the child-level and classroom- level behavioral variables on children’s school readiness outcomes. The findings showed that peer’s responsiveness is a significant predictor of children’s residualized spring school readiness skills (controlling for fall skills; d = 0.37, p = 0.065), particularly children’s spring motor skills (d = 0.65, p = 0.011) and children’s spring concept skills (d = 0.48, p = 0.046). The effect sizes of these associations are moderate.  There is a significant interaction between children’s initial responsiveness and their peer’s responsiveness on children’s spring school readiness skills (d = 0.03, p = 0.010), motor skills (d = 0.04, p = 0.015), concepts (d = 0.04, p = 0.001) and language (d = 0.05, p = 0.002). These results indicate that children with low responsiveness skills in a classroom with peers with high responsiveness skills tend to show greater positive growth in school readiness skills by the end of the preschool year. This study extends previous work and indicates that after adjusting for an assortment of demographic and program-related factors as well as school readiness skills at entry to preschool, peers’ responsiveness skills may make a unique contribution to children’s school readiness skills during the preschool academic year.