Child care stability during prekindergarten is related to behavior problems that same year.
Child care stability is directly related to 1st grade internalizing problems.
Child care stability is indirectly related to kindergarten and 1st grade internalizing problems.
The goal of the present study was to examine associations among parent perceptions of child care stability during the prekindergarten year and behavioral outcomes (i.e., externalizing and internalizing problems) that same year and during the early elementary grades in a sample of children from low-income households. A second aim was to explore the extent to which the relation between parent perceptions of child care stability in prekindergarten and externalizing and internalizing behaviors in the early elementary years is mediated by prekindergarten behavior problems. Data were obtained from the Head Start Impact Study. The sample included 4442 children (50% male) who were eligible for Head Start. At the start of prekindergarten, children were on average a little over 4-years-old (M = 4.16 years, SD = 0.43). The sample was ethnically/racially diverse and had a range of maternal education levels. Data were collected at baseline (fall of 2002) and in the spring of prekindergarten, kindergarten and 1st grade. When controlling for a set of demographic, family, and child covariates, results indicated that prekindergarten parent perceptions of child care stability was directly associated with externalizing and internalizing problems that same year and was also directly associated with 1st grade internalizing problems. In addition, stability had small indirect relations with internalizing behaviors in kindergarten and 1st grade, mediated through these same skills in prekindergarten. Implications of study findings and directions for future research are discussed.