Early childhood research indicates that school readiness is a key determinant of a successful transition to school. Between 9.5% and 14.2% of young children experience social-emotional problems that negatively impact school-readiness, and nearly half of children with significant behavior problems at school entry demonstrate more serious behavioral and academic difficulties throughout elementary school and into adolescence. Moreover, children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with emotional-behavioral challenges are likely to experience school transition problems. Evidence supports the value of parent-centered interventions for fostering positive child adjustment across this pivotal transition period. Increasing parents'skills and confidence in applying effective transition strategies with their child translates into positive adjustment outcomes for children, yet there isa dearth of evidence-based, easy to access programs that parents can use to facilitate their child's successful transition to formal schooling. The proposed SBIR project will directly address this critical issue by developing and testing a specialized online intervention for parents of children in early childhood designed to promote children's school readiness and successful transition to school. ParentWays for Early Childhood (PWEC) will be an innovative online parent training intervention that provides parents with effective psychoeducational resources and tools to help promote their child's school success while also fostering parental involvement and positive family-school relationships. Grounded in the Developmental Model of school transitions (Pianta &Kraft-Sayre, 2003), this Phase I project will accomplish three aims: (1) create the Phase I PWEC prototype with three training modules (Introduction, Transition to School, Parenting for Success) built on 3-C ISD's proprietary web-based platform for self-paced dynamic learning with hands-on interactive practice exercises;(2) conduct feasibility testing with key stakeholders, including childcare/daycare professionals (n=30), early childhood education professionals (n=30), and parents of children ages 3-5 (n=30);and (3) establish a detailed Phase II development and testing plan based on Phase I findings. Phase I research is expected to demonstrate strong support for the proposed product. With this foundation, Phase II full product development will begin followed by a randomized clinical trial examining treatment benefits for (1) parenting knowledge and self-efficacy and (2) child social skills, school adjustment, and emotional functioning across the school transition period. Through Phase II testing, the proposed product is expected to effectively increase parents'knowledge, self-efficacy, and skills for helping their child successfully transition to grade school. This intervention product will yield a commercially viable and valuable resource for a wide variety of parents, as well as early education professionals who work closely with parents of young children, to support the start of formal school.

Public Health Relevance

Social-emotional skills play a central role in young children's school readiness and successful transition to formal schooling. Approximately half of children with significant behavior problems at school entry are expected to demonstrate more serious behavioral and academic difficulties throughout elementary school and into adolescence. Despite $25 billion currently spent by states and the federal government for childcare and preschool programs, significant gaps in school readiness are found for low-income and minority preschool- aged children that often persist and relate to later school failure and a host of negative outcomes (e.g., teen pregnancy, engagement in criminal activities, clinical depression) [83]. Although the importance of school readiness cannot be overstated, few cost-effective, accessible, scientifically-validated interventions have been developed to provide parents with the knowledge and skills to help their children successfully transition to school. Web-based programs are an increasingly feasible way to disseminate information and interventions, given nearly 80% of US households have in-home internet access with a significant increase in Internet access for rural populations and low-income households. The proposed SBIR project will address the need for cost- effective, accessible, scientifically-validated programs for school readiness and early school success by developing and testing a specialized online psychoeducation program for parents of children ages 3-5 years. This program will provide guidance and support for parents to help them promote the successful transition to school for their young children while also building strong, positive connections between families and the school setting.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase I (R43)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-V (10))
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Mann Koepke, Kathy M
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3-C Institute for Social Development
United States
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