TitleChildren at risk for early academic problems: the role of learning-related social skills
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsMcClelland, MM, Morrison, FJ, Holmes, DL
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
Pagination307 - 329
Date PublishedJan-09-2000

Increasing evidence suggests that aspects of children’s learning-related social skills (including interpersonal skills and work-related skills) contribute to early school performance. The present investigation examined the association of work-related skills to academic outcomes at the beginning of kindergarten and at the end of second grade as well as characteristics of children with low work-related skills. Children were selected from a sample of 540 children based on low work-related skills scores on the Cooper-Farran Behavioral Rating Scales, a teacher-rated scale. Results indicated that work-related skills predicted unique variance in academic outcomes at school entry and at the end of second grade, after controlling for kindergarten academic score and important background variables. In addition, children with poor work-related skills (n = 82) were found to differ from the overall sample on a number of child, family, and sociocultural variables including: significantly lower IQs, more behavior difficulties, and more medical problems, such as hearing and language problems. Finally, children with low work-related skills scored lower on academic outcomes at the beginning of kindergarten and at the end of second grade. Findings highlight the importance of early work-related skills in understanding successful school transition and early academic achievement.  There has been increasing recognition over the last decade of the importance of early academic skills for later academic achievement (Mullis & Jenkins, 1990) and school adaptation (Alexander, Entwisle, & Dauber, 1993). National studies of children’s achievement levels in reading, vocabulary and mathematics have revealed that significant numbers of U.S. children are not acquiring the academic skills required to succeed in school. Moreover, cross-cultural research has documented that children in this country lag behind children in other countries in mathematics, reading and problem-solving Applebee et al 1989; Stevenson and Lee 1990 ;  Stevenson et al 1993. In addition, mounting evidence suggests that important individual differences emerge quite early (e.g., Alexander et al 1993; Plomin 1995; Stevenson et al 1993 ;  Stipek and Ryan 1997). For example, Stevenson, Chen, & Lee (1993) found differences between U.S. and Japanese children by the end of first grade.  In the search for possible causes for poor academic skills in American children, a number of child, family, and sociocultural factors have been identified. Not surprisingly, much of this research has focused on qualities of the home environment believed to stimulate cognitive growth and promote academic achievement. Findings support what one would intuitively suspect, namely that children who come from environments that stimulate cognitive growth, as reflected in measures such as overall social class (Stipek & Ryan, 1997) and quality of the family literacy environment (Griffin & Morrison, 1997), perform better academically. Similarly, individual differences in child characteristics, such as IQ, are also predictive of school performance Plomin 1995 ;  Rowe 1994. In contrast, less attention has been paid to other child factors that may influence school achievement. In particular, there is growing evidence that social behavioral characteristics of children contribute to adjustment to school and subsequent academic performance Alexander et al 1993; Cooper and Farran 1988; Cooper and Farran 1991 ;  Ladd 1990. For example, teacher reports suggest that children come into school with differing levels of social skills and that these skills are critical to early school success (Foulks & Morrow, 1989). The present study explored more explicitly the nature of poor social skills and their implications for later academic success.

Short TitleEarly Childhood Research Quarterly