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.