Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

Protective Factors as Measured by the DECA - Interrelations and Predictability of Co-Occurring Behavior Concerns

Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

Protective Factors as Measured by the DECA - Interrelations and Predictability of Co-Occurring Behavior Concerns

Article excerpt


The current study investigates the relationship between the protective factors of initiative, self-control, and attachment and their ability to predict levels of behavioral concern in a Head Start population (N=1885). Considerable research has found strong connections between protective factors and positive outcomes. However, little research has examined the unique contributions of multiple protective factors concurrently. Results of the current study indicate that when children have any one protective factor they are likely to have other protective factors. When considered individually, protective factors are predictive of low levels of behavior concern. Conversely, when all protective factors are considered together, only self-control predicts a lack of behavior concern. This implies that strength-based screeners can inform interventions that improve protective factors and may reduce behavioral problems in at-risk preschool populations.

Keywords: protective factors, Head Start, behavioral concern, screening

1. Introduction

Low socio-economic status (SES) is a significant risk factor for the development of emotional and behavioral problems in preschool populations (Qi & Kaiser, 2003; Webster-Stratton & Hammond, 1998). Approximately one in five children is living in poverty (Macartney, 2011); however, some children thrive despite their families' economic hardships (Werner, 1990). The characteristics that increase a child's positive outcomes despite significant risk are referred to as protective factors. Placing a focus on protective factors is important due to their strength in predicting positive outcomes. For example, in a longitudinal study, Caprara (2000) found that prosocial behavior more significantly predicted later academic outcomes than aggressive behavior.

Despite existing research on the importance of protective factors for predicting later positive outcomes (e.g., Caprara et al. 2000), a paucity of research has examined protective factors within young children from families with low SES. Instead, the emphasis has been on measuring risk factors and behavioral concerns within this population in order to predict later behavior problems (LeBuffe & Naglieri, 1999). Moreover, universal social-emotional health screeners often focus on risk factors, which fail to provide a full scope of a child's development. The Devereux Early Childhood Assessment (LeBuffe & Naglieri, 1999; DECA) uses a dual-factor model to screen for both risk (i.e., behavior concerns) and protective factors (i.e., initiative, self-control, attachment) to capture a dynamic profile of a child and allow for more refined early prevention and intervention efforts. Understanding the connections that exist between protective factors may inform such intervention and prevention efforts, particularly within an at-risk population. Limited research currently exists on the relationship between protective factors (Masten et al., 1999). Information about the relationship between protective factors could be important when planning interventions for young children. Further, determining which protective factors led to beneficial outcomes could help to target interventions especially in settings with limited resources.

1.1 Background

Behavioral concern is a significant risk factor for future maladaptive outcomes (Qi & Kaiser, 2003). These negative outcomes include lower academic achievement (Patterson, DeBaryshe, & Ramsey, 1990), difficulties with social relationships (Barker et al., 2008), and negative behavioral outcomes such as substance abuse, violence, and delinquency (Reid, Webster-Stratton, & Hammond, 2003). These difficulties are especially prevalent amongst preschoolers from families with lower income (Feil, Walker, Severson, & Bail, 2000).

Positive child outcomes despite risk factors, conceptualized as resiliency, can be thought of as "a process that interacts with a risk factor reducing the probability of a negative outcome" (Zimmerman & Arunkumar, 1994, p. …

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