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Master of Science (M.S.)

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Social Skills, Preschool, Transition to Kindergarten, Low SES


Children who are socially skilled are better able to make use of the learning environment in schools and are more likely to form positive relationships with others. This is especially important during the transition to kindergarten since early experiences in school can establish self-sustaining trajectories; children who succeed socially and academically early on are more likely to continue in their success. Research suggests that aspects of the classroom environment, home environment, and children's individual characteristics are important for young children's social development. However, research so far has not examined the intersection of these three levels of influence (classroom, child, and family) on children's social skills at this critical transition to formal schooling. The present study utilized a multi-method, multi-informant, longitudinal research design to examine the ways in which preschool classroom-level factors (teacher quality, teacher beliefs and practices, and classroom climate), family-level factors (parenting style and family stress), and child-level characteristics (language ability and externalizing behaviors) predict parent and teacher ratings of the social skills of a diverse sample of kindergarteners. Developmentally appropriate teaching beliefs and practices, better language ability, and fewer externalizing behaviors each uniquely predicted better teacher-rated kindergarten social skills, controlling for all other variables. More parental warmth, less family stress, fewer externalizing behaviors, and better language ability uniquely predicted higher parent-rated social skills in kindergarten, controlling for all other variables. Classroom-level factors did not significantly moderate the relationships between family or child-level characteristics and social skill ratings. Gender and ethnic differences were found in the strength of the relationships between predictors and outcomes.


First Advisor

David H. Arnold