Abstract: Parenting and School Readiness: Associations From Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Years (Society for Prevention Research 21st Annual Meeting)

403 Parenting and School Readiness: Associations From Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Years

Thursday, May 30, 2013
Pacific D-O (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Erin T. Mathis, MS, Graudate Student, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Karen L. Bierman, PhD, Distinguished Professor, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Introduction: Growing up in poverty increases the likelihood that children will experience delays in school readiness, reducing their preparation for the social-emotional and academic demands of elementary school. Parenting behaviors may play a key role in fostering children’s social-emotional and academic school readiness by supporting and scaffolding self-regulation and learning. In particular, cross-sectional and developmental studies have linked sensitive-responsive parenting during the preschool years with enhanced emergent literacy and social skills at school entry. However, most studies consider only unidirectional effects from parenting quality to child outcomes. Bi-directional influences reflecting child characteristics that may affect parenting quality are rarely examined. This study modeled bi-directional longitudinal associations between sensitive-responsive parenting and children’s literacy skills and social behavior measured in prekindergarten and again after the transition into elementary school.


Methods: Children and primary caregivers participated during the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten years. Participants included two cohorts (N = 210, mean age at time 1 = 4.8) recruited from 26 Head Start classrooms in three counties in Pennsylvania. Sensitive-responsive parenting was assessed using interviewer ratings and videotaped observations of parent-child interactions. Child literacy skills were directly assessed; teachers provided ratings of child social skills.


Results: Cross-lagged longitudinal path analyses examined bi-directional effects between parenting and child school readiness (i.e. literacy skills and social behavior). Analyses revealed sensitive-responsive parenting in pre-kindergarten significantly predicted children’s literacy skills in kindergarten with a standardized path coefficient of .23 (p = .01), whereas children’s pre-kindergarten literacy skills did not significantly predict kindergarten parenting behavior. In a second path model, children’s prekindergarten social behavior significantly predicted parent sensitive-responsiveness in kindergarten with a standardized path coefficient of .15 (p = .03), whereas parent pre-kindergarten sensitive-responsiveness did not predict children’s social behavior in kindergarten.


Conclusions: These findings reflect the importance of studying bi-directional effects, because parenting practices that affect school readiness may both affect and be affected by child emerging literacy and social skills. Specifically, sensitive-responsive parenting promoted child literacy skill development. However, the extent to which parents exhibit this sensitive-responsive behavior depended, in part, on children’s social skills. Implications for early intervention are discussed.