Early academic achievement is critical to school readiness and later academic success. Consequently, multi-domain models are needed to identify risk factors and pathways by which they influence early academic achievement.
The aim was to advance the development of a multi-domain model of risk factors associated with early academic achievement by examining the effects of contextual, parent, parenting, and child risk and protective factors assessed at age 4 years on reading and mathematics skills at age 5 years.
The design used structural equation modeling in half-longitudinal models to assess risk factors in a diverse community sample (N = 796) at age 4 and academic achievement at age 5.
Models showing the effects of socioeconomic status, conflict, stress, caretaker depression, parenting, child verbal skills, temperament, and attachment at age 4 years showed good fit for early reading and mathematics achievement. There were numerous significant indirect paths by which distal factors were associated with early academic achievement via caretaker depression, parenting, and child verbal skills for both reading and mathematics.
In a model including the association of verbal skills and effortful control (EC), the association of EC and early academic achievement is limited. Caretaker depression is not associated with early achievement directly but is associated with achievement indirectly via parenting. Factors associated with child verbal skills were particularly important for both reading and mathematics. Findings clarify the incremental validity of direct associations of multi-domain factors with early academic achievement, and suggest possible pathways between those factors and achievement.