Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Positive Mother-Child Interactions in Kindergarten: Predictors of School Success in High School

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Positive Mother-Child Interactions in Kindergarten: Predictors of School Success in High School

Article excerpt

Abstract. This longitudinal study followed 142 children to determine whether the quality of mother-child interactions, as measured in kindergarten, predicted high school academic achievement and attainment. Findings showed that, regardless of race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, and IQ, positive mother-child interactions in kindergarten were associated with an increased likelihood of high school graduation and, for some students, a higher grade-point average by 12th grade. However, modier-child interactions in kindergarten were not related to reading or math achievement test scores. The findings suggest that school psychologists should attend to children's interactions with their caregivers during their earliest years of school to forecast and deflect future problems given the long-lasting importance of early mother-child interactions for children's educational attainment and the protective function of such interactions for children facing risk.


Poor grades, low achievement, and high rates of high school dropout are national problems. Estimates of high school dropout suggest that one in ten young adults do not reach the equivalent of high school educational attainment (National Center for Education Statistics, 2006). Many of the youth remaining in high school underachieve; roughly 35% of children are not proficient in reading, and more than 15% are not reaching basic math achievement levels by the 12th grade (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007). Ethnic and socioeconomic gaps in high school achievement and graduation rates persist, despite decades of school-based reforms designed to reverse such trends (e.g., Fuller, Gesicki, Keng, & Wright, 2006). Such facts are only superficial indicators of larger national concerns. Our educational system is falling behind others around the world (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, 2000), and the proportion of individuals in the United States who are highly educated has begun to drop relative to the proportion of highly educated individuals in other countries (National Center on Education and the Economy, 2007).

Given the high prevalence of achievement problems and early dropout from school, there is a critical need for research with a longitudinal focus that strives to identify predictors of these difficulties (Jimerson, Egeland, & Sroufe, 2000). The present study was motivated by recently stated needs in school psychology--specifically, Shapiro's (2006) call for school psychologists to orient themselves toward the prevention of problems and Hojnoski and Missall's (2006) call for family-centered interventions that increase school readiness. In addressing the call, we take a developmental perspective and focus on social processes that are most proximal to youth--namely, the nature of interactions between parents and their children (Van den Boom, 1997), This approach is consistent with early childhood research suggesting that children's competencies are a product of the contexts in which they spend their time.

Risk and Protection

Risk for Low Achievement

Early childhood poverty can set students on negative achievement trajectories with few opportunities for deflections toward higher achievement (Cappella & Weinstein, 2001). In 2004, low-income adolescents were five times more likely to drop out man adolescents from high-income families (National Center for Education Statistics, 2006). Numerous contributors in the home (e.g., lack of cognitively stimulating material) and in schools (e.g., poorly qualified teachers) explain in part why economic disadvantage is linked to poor schooling outcomes (Hoff, 2003).

Beyond socioeconomic status, racial/ ethnic group membership has also been found to be a risk for low achievement, as seen in the continued gap in reading and math achievement between African American and White high school students (Gregory & Weinstein, 2004; National Center for Education Statistics, 2005). …

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