Self-regulation and the transition to middle school The transition from elementary to middle school often precipitates a downward spiral in academic performance characterized by declining grades, academic disengagement, and eventual high school drop-out. During this same period, risky behaviors such as substance abuse and sexual risk-taking increase. Low-income African American and Latino children are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of this transition. Disentangling the factors contributing to the academic success/failure of low-income African American and Latino youth requires viewing development as a complex developmental process with ?intertwined developmental trajectories, social pathways, and social convoys? (Benner, 2011). For low-income African American and Latino youth in particular, it is important to consider the intersection of social class, culture, and ethnicity for children of color transitioning to middle school. Life course theory suggests that early life stress can have a cumulative effect on development. Accordingly, individual level vulnerabilities at multiple levels of the youth ecology (individual, family, school, and neighborhood) can be potentiated during times of exposure to additional normative stressors, such as developmental transition points. Minority youth from low-SES families not only experience difficulties associated with poverty but also cultural stress (e.g., assimilation, discrimination) which undermine their ability to face normative stressors such as transitioning into middle school. We propose to follow a large cohort of low-income African American and Latino children first enrolled at age 2 as part of the Dallas Preschool Readiness Project (DPReP) as they transition into middle school. DPReP participants have completed four waves of data collection that have included measures of emerging self- regulation skills, academic achievement, and behavior problems. By following this sample into middle school, we will characterize trajectories of self-regulation development to address the following primary aims:
Aim 1. Examine how individual differences in trajectories of self-regulation development from 2 years into middle school are related to differences in academic and behavioral adjustment in middle school for low-income African Americans and Latinos.
Aim 2. Examine how the interrelated contexts of family, school and neighborhood contribute to the middle school academic and behavioral adjustment of low-income African Americans and Latinos.
Aim 3. Examine how the relation of family, school, and neighborhood contexts to academic and behavioral adjustment in middle school is both mediated and moderated by self-regulation skills among low- income African Americans and Latinos. Data collection methods will include home visits, phone interviews, teacher surveys, and classroom and neighborhood observations. Measures include child self-regulation, assessments of academic performance and social competence, family environment, classroom environment, teacher-child relationship, and neighborhood conditions. Analytic methods will include structural equations modeling, and latent differences models.
The transition from elementary to middle school often precipitates a downward spiral in academic performance characterized by declining grades, academic disengagement, and eventual high school drop-out. Low-income African American and Latino children are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of this transition, and the stark race/ethnic disparities in high school graduation rates and educational attainment likely reflect its long- term consequences. Children with better self-regulation in early childhood display better academic and behavioral adjustment in middle school. In this study, we will follow a cohort of 365 low-income African American and Latino children originally enrolled at age 2 and reassessed at age 3, kindergarten, and first grade to conduct additional assessments in 4th through 7th grade to examine the role of self-regulation skills, family-level processes and neighborhood conditions in explaining academic and behavioral adjustment in middle school.
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