Publication date: 2nd Quarter 2020
Source: Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Volume 51
Author(s): Natalia Rojas, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Pamela Morris, Dimitra Kamboukos, Spring Dawson-Mcclure, Laurie Brotman
An increasing number of young children nationally participate in preschool education, yet very little is known about the influence of peers’ behavioral regulation, such as maintaining focus on a task in the face of distractions and inhibiting a dominant response (attentionimpulse control), and remembering instructions (engagement) on children’s motor-cognitive readiness skills (i.e., peer effects). This study determined whether peer effects are present in this earliest sector of schooling. Research has shown that a child’s own behavioral regulation is associated with his or her academic outcomes. However, not much is known about how children are affected by classmates with poor behavioural regulation. This study begins to fill the gaps in our understanding of preschool peer effects in the form of peers’ behavioral regulation relative to children’s motor-cognitive readiness skills. It addresses two research questions: (1) Is the average level and amount of variation of peers’ behavioral regulation skills (i.e., engagement and attentionimpulse control) in a classroom associated with growth in children’s motor-cognitive readiness outcomes in preschool (motor, content knowledge, and language)? (2) Do these associations differ for children with high and low initial levels of behavioral regulation? The analytic sample is drawn from a cluster (school) randomized controlled trial testing a family-centered, school-based intervention (N=1050 children in 99 classrooms drawn from 10 high-poverty schools). Results indicated that classroom-level peer engagement skills made a unique contribution to children’s growth of motor skills during the preschool academic year.
Furthermore, children with higher engagement skills at the beginning of the preschool year had higher motor-cognitive readiness skills (motor, content knowledge, and language) at the end of the year when they were in classrooms with peers with high engagement skills. This study extends previous work with older children and indicates that after adjusting for an assortment of demographic, preschool program-related factors, and motor-cognitive readiness at entry into preschool, peers’ engagement skills may make a unique contribution to children’s motor-cognitive readiness skills during the preschool academic year.