Peer Effects on Children’s Language Achievement During Pre-Kindergarten


  • This research was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305A060021 to the University of Virginia. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the U.S. Department of Education. The authors gratefully acknowledge the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Foundation for Child Development for their support of the SWEEP Study, and the U.S. Department of Education for its support of the Multi-State Study of Pre-Kindergarten. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the funding agencies, and endorsement by these agencies should not be assumed. The authors are grateful for the help of the many children, parents, teachers, administrators, and field staff who participated in these studies.

concerning this article should be addressed to Andrew J. Mashburn, University of Virginia, Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning, 350 Old Ivy Way Suite 100, Charlottesville, VA 22903. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study examined associations between peers’ expressive language abilities and children’s development of receptive and expressive language among 1,812 four-year olds enrolled in 453 classrooms in 11 states that provide large-scale public pre-kindergarten (pre-k) programs. Higher peer expressive language abilities were positively associated with children’s development of receptive and expressive language during pre-k. The positive association between peers’ expressive language abilities and children’s receptive language development was stronger for children who began pre-k with higher receptive language skills and within classrooms characterized by better classroom management. Implications of these findings for understanding ecological inputs to children’s language development and for designing effective pre-k programs are discussed.