Is social-emotional development a predictor of school success in Head Start children? A field study



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Social-emotional development in preschoolers often functions as a gateway into more advanced social and academic behaviors; social-emotional experiences during the preschool years may enhance or diminish a child?s later adjustment and academic outcome. With the current focus on promoting pre-academic skills in preschool programs, the importance of social-emotional development has been left behind. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requires initial and follow-up screening of academic readiness skills for the Head Start programs. At the same time, much of the research that relates social-emotional development to academic outcome was completed 20 to 30 years ago. This study examined the relation between academic skills and social-emotional development in the beginning and end of one school year. Approximately 150 children ages 3 to 5 years old were assessed in six Head Start centers in different cities in rural Texas. Each student participated in an academic screening within the first 45 days of school and again at the end of the school year. A parent and teacher also completed a rating scale on each student?s social and emotional skills at the beginning of school. The purpose of this study was to contribute to a better understanding of the impact social-emotional development has on the academic progress for preschool-aged children. The overall goal of this study was to determine the extent to which socialemotional development can predict school readiness in Head Start children. The central hypothesis of this study was that social-emotional development can facilitate or impede children?s academic progress. This project was a prospective, repeated measures, singlesample design. The Head Start children who participated in this study were assessed at the beginning and end of the school year. Gain scores were used to measure the growth in academic skills over one school year and compared to initial social-emotional skill level. Results suggest a relationship between adaptive skills and academic gains in one year is evident in Head Start children, which indicates the importance of continuing to provide services and funding for services that go beyond the basic academic tasks. This study found that social-emotional development influences many vital attributes in a child?s growth, including academic success.