A longitudinal study of children’s social behaviors and their causal relationship to reading growth

Asia Pacific Education Review (Impact Factor: 0.47). 05/2011; 12(2):197-213. DOI: 10.1007/s12564-010-9124-y


This paper aims at investigating the causal effects of social behaviors on subsequent reading growth in elementary school,
using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Kindergarten (ECLS-K) data. The sample was 8,869 subjects who provided longitudinal measures of reading IRT scores from kindergarten (1998–1999)
to fifth grades (2003–2004) in the United States. To examine the causal relationship, propensity score methods were used to
match higher and lower groups in four social behavior domains such as Approaches to learning, Interpersonal skills, Internalizing
problem behavior and Externalizing problem behavior. Results showed that the matched sample achieved sufficient pretreatment
balance between the two groups. To examine the effects of social behaviors on the reading growth, multilevel growth model
(MGM) was employed. Comparisons of the matched samples showed that children in the high groups of pro-social behavior or in
the low groups of problem behavior at kindergarten entrance started with higher reading skills and developed reading achievement
faster than those who were not. This study suggests that children’s early social behavior is crucial in reading development.
Practical implication and direction of future research are also discussed.

KeywordsSocial behavior–Reading development–Propensity score matching–Multilevel growth modeling

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    ABSTRACT: A successful transition from kindergarten to 1st grade requires a positive combination of multiple dimensions of child competence. Using latent class analysis, we simultaneously examined the academic skills, work attitude, and social/behavioral competence of a large sample of Dutch kindergarten children to identify profiles of kindergarten competence. We tested the predictive power of the profiles by means of multivariate multilevel analyses with language, arithmetic, and work attitude scores as outcome variables. Research Findings: Five profiles of children with distinctive combinations of skills were identified. The results showed that the profile solution forms a significant basis on which to predict later performance. In particular, children in the 2 profiles with the highest kindergarten competence levels perform significantly better in Grade 1 than children with less advantageous skill sets, an effect that tends to increase in magnitude at the end of Grade 2. Practice or Policy: We suggest a practical validation of these profiles to be used as tools for tailoring learning opportunities in kindergarten according to children's skill sets.
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