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VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon

Exlusion and inclusion in the transition to primary school. The role of behavior problems and social competence among boys and girls

Awarded: NOK 12.3 mill.

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Project Period:

2011 - 2016

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Children?s ability to self-regulate is important for social, emotional and academic conditions both later in childhood and into adulthood. During the past two decades, extensive research has addressed the importance of self-regulation in preschool age. Still, there is a lack of research focusing on possible explanations for individual differences in self-regulation. There is general agreement that genes, socioeconomic status and experiences in childhood explain why some children are prone to regulate thoughts, feelings and behaviors, while others are not. Considering that children in the western world today spend much time in child care centers, it is surprising that few studies have examined possible links between experiences with center care and self-regulation. We wanted to study possible explanatory factors for children's self-regulation at age four. More specifically, we investigated whether a) growing up with child siblings, b) center care exposure (attendance, hours, and child group size), and c) family socioeconomic status (SES) may explain individual differences in self-regulation in a sample of Norwegian children. Moreover, we wanted to examine whether potential relationships would differ for cognitive and emotional aspects of self-regulation, respectively. The results showed that children who grew up with child sibling during the first three years of life had better emotional self-regulation by the age of four, than those with no siblings or with much older siblings. Socioeconomic status was related to cognitive, but not emotional regulation. We found no robust relationships between center care exposure and self-regulation, but a small tendency that more hours in center care at age 3 was related to poorer emotional self-regulation, and also that somewhat larger group size at age 4 was related to better cognitive self-regulation. This is one of the first studies to examine the importance of siblings and daycare for children's self-regulation. One possible explanation for the association between having child siblings and emotional self-regulation may be that those who grow up with siblings in everyday life constantly have to wait, share, handle frustration, control emotions, etc., while only children (or children with very much younger or older siblings), get attention from their parents in a different way. The relationship between socioeconomic status and self-regulation underpins international findings, and show that the association is also present in samples characterized by relatively high socioeconomic status. Being able to regulate thoughts, feelings and behavior are particularly important in the transition to school. Children need to be able to monitor what is happening on the board, sit still, not be distracted by others, etc. In line with this, research shows that preschool self-regulation is related to both social and academic exclusion as it predicts social, emotional and academic outcomes in school age. However, there is uncertainty about how and why self-regulation, social and academic skills are interrelated. One possibility is that the relationship between self-regulation and academic competence goes via social competence: those who are good at controlling thoughts, feelings and behavior will have better social skills, less disruptive and internalizing behaviors, better relationships with peers and teachers and thus be more committed at school. This will also lead to better academic competence. Another hypothesis is that various aspects of self-regulation are differentially related to academic and social competence: cognitive self-regulation is related to academic competence, while emotional self-regulation is associated with social competence and adaptation. We have addressed both of these explanations in a single model, and also controlled for possible alternative explanatory variables. Another goal was to make the measures of social competence and disruptive behavior "clean" so that there was no conceptual overlap with self-regulation measures. We found that cognitive self-regulation was related to academic competence in 1st grade and to changes in such competence from 1st to 2nd grade. That is; good self-regulation skills at four years were related to better academic competence in 1st grade, but also to progress in learning from 1st to 2nd grade. Cognitive self-regulation was also related to the level of internalizing symptoms in 1st grade. Emotional self-regulation, however, was related to disruptive behavior and social competence in 1st grade. Furthermore, emotional self-regulation was related to change in academic competence from 1st to 2nd grade via social competence and disruptive behavior in 1st grade. The study partially supports the hypothesis that self-regulation is related to academic competence via social competence, and also the hypotheses that different aspects of self-regulation are differentially related to academic and social competence. Prosject web

The project aims at studying the role of behavior problems and social competence in girls' and boys' exclusion and inclusion throughout child care and in the transition to primary school. A particular focus regards the elucidation of developmental mechani sms. The main hypotheses to be studied are: (a) behavior problems predict exclusion, and social competence predict inclusion in child care and in the transition to primary school; and (b) distinct developmental trajectories of behavior problems and social competence have specific predictions for inclusion and exclusion. The project will utilize an extant rich data set from an ongoing longitudinal study of 1159 children, which includes multi-informant, multi-method measures of behavior problems and social competence, exclusion and inclusion, family and child background, and child care and school factors. In addition, we will collect new data central to the project's objectives children's age 5 and after school entry. Multiple regression, structural equatio n modeling, latent growth curve analyses, and growth mixture modeling will be employed to address the research issues. Findings will inform policy on early prevention, and intervention as well as child care, child welfare and primary education. The projec t is of particular relevance for the research program on Welfare, Work and Migration (VAM). Persistent behavior problems and concomitant learning difficulties are an important source of failure in early education, which puts children at risk for exclusion and marginalization. The project applies in particular to the thematic areas of family and society, children's developmental conditions, and the mechanisms of marginalization. We pay special attention to behavior problems in girls, their concomitants and consequences, incorporating the gender perspective of the program plan.

Funding scheme:

VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon