Young children’s emotional development and school readiness
he current emphasis on children's academic preparedness continues to overshadow the importance of children's social and emotional development for school readiness (Raver & Zigler, 1997). Research, however, indicates that young children's emotional adjustment matters — children who are emotionally well adjusted have a significantly greater chance of early school success, while children who experience serious emotional difficulty face grave risks of early school difficulty. This Digest presents a brief overview of longitudinal research linking children's emotional development to school readiness and early school success and then discusses interventions designed for children entering school.
Interventions with children entering school
Low- to moderate-intensity interventions in the
home — Parent Training Programs.
"Multi-Pronged" Home/School Interventions for Children at Moderate Risk. These programs address children's emotional and behavioral difficulties at home and in school. Although more costly to run and targeted at fewer children, these programs are expected to pay off in the long run by reducing the prevalence of costly outcomes such as criminal offenses and dropping-out of school (Kazdin, 1997; McEvoy & Welker, 2000). Results from a number of experimental studies (using randomized designs) suggest remarkable effectiveness of these multipronged programs in reducing children's disruptive behavior. These gains range from modest improvements to strong gains in children's social, emotional, and academic skills (Eddy et al., 2000; Stoolmiller et al., 2000; Webster-Stratton & Taylor, 2001). These programs have also shown effectiveness in reducing the likelihood that children will engage in delinquent behaviors (Stoolmiller et al., 2000) and in being held back a grade or more, than did the less-expensive, lower-intensity, classroom-only interventions described earlier (Vitaro et al., 1999). Some researchers, however, have pointed out that these findings are not sustained over longer periods of time, and that children's high school dropout rates are not significantly affected by the intervention program.
High-Intensity Clinical Interventions for High-Risk Children. A small percentage of young children in poverty struggle with serious emotional and behavioral disturbance. A range of programs are designed to lower the risk of young children's development of serious problems in families struggling with multiple, chronic stressors such as high risk of maltreatment, mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence. School-based mental health consultation programs, for example, pair psychologists, social workers, and psychiatrists with local school districts in order to identify, assess, and treat young children who are in serious emotional and behavioral trouble. Clinicians from local community mental health organizations observe classrooms, provide teachers with training, and provide child- and family-centered psychotherapy (Cohen & Kaufmann, 2000). As of this writing, no evaluations of school-based consultation programs using randomized trial design could be found; however, the potential for such programs seems promising.
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