SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Prejudice, Discrimination, and Engagement

  1. Top of page
  2. Prejudice, Discrimination, and Engagement
  3. Vision for Action
  4. Telling Tales in School
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Certainty Judgments
  7. Language Lessons
  8. Autism: Face First
  9. Peer Rejection and Conflict
  10. Source Memory
  11. Children in Poverty: How Home Life Influences Behavior, Cognition
  12. Buffers to Aggression
  13. Conceptual Change
  14. Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool
  15. Reading for Fun

Many studies have suggested that even young children show prejudice toward individuals and groups of different ethnicities, races, or nationalities (otherwise known as outgroups). In a meta-analysis of more than 100 international studies on the topic done over the last 90 years, Raabe and Beelmann (p. 1715) find that overall, prejudice peaks from ages 5–7, followed by a slight decrease until ages 8–10. The meta-analysis, out of Germany, also uncovers different age-related changes in prejudice toward higher- versus lower-status outgroups, identifies the positive effects of opportunities to have contact with outgroups on children’s development of prejudice, and suggests that ages 7–10 is a sensitive period for environmental influences on prejudice. A useful source of information on prejudice in children, the analysis has implications for developmental interventions.

Many African American adolescents perceive themselves to be the victims of racial discrimination, and these perceptions are linked to their well-being. Some believe that Black youths form identities in the context of dealing with perceptions of unfair treatment or racial discrimination. In their longitudinal study, Seaton, Neblett, Upton, Hammond, and Sellers (p. 1850) asked: Do Black youths’ racial identities buffer these perceptions? More than 550 teens answered questions about unfair treatment and racial group membership. Findings: Overall, teens who understood more about unfair treatment of Blacks had lower levels of psychological well-being. This suggests that the short-term buffering effect of a protective Black identity does not continue over time. The study has implications for parents, teachers, and others who have regular contact with African American youth, suggesting the need to bolster these teens’ feelings about racial discrimination as they construct identities related to their racial group membership.

Racial and ethnic minorities, poor and working-class people, and younger people vote less frequently than Whites, more affluent people, and older people. Diemer and Li (p. 1815) asked: What motivates poor and working-class White and poor and working-class youth of color—also known as marginalized youth—to become politically engaged? Using the Civic and Political Health Survey of 2006, they looked at a nationally representative sample of young people, investigating their political knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. More than 650 poor and working-class youths ages 15–25 took part. The study finds that critical consciousness—an awareness of social inequalities and participation in social action (such as peaceful protests or marches)—predicted marginalized youths’ voting behavior, and did so more powerfully than voting behavior predicted critical consciousness. The research suggests that social action may be a useful form of political participation for youth who tend to be less traditionally engaged politically. The findings have implications for civic and political groups seeking to engage youths, and for youth-development programs.

Vision for Action

  1. Top of page
  2. Prejudice, Discrimination, and Engagement
  3. Vision for Action
  4. Telling Tales in School
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Certainty Judgments
  7. Language Lessons
  8. Autism: Face First
  9. Peer Rejection and Conflict
  10. Source Memory
  11. Children in Poverty: How Home Life Influences Behavior, Cognition
  12. Buffers to Aggression
  13. Conceptual Change
  14. Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool
  15. Reading for Fun

Most studies of infants’ visual development use laboratory tasks that aren’t that close to real life actions. To determine where infants look during natural interactions with people and the physical environment, Franchak, Kretch, Soska, and Adolph (p. 1738) established a method to measure eye gaze, while still allowing the babies to move about freely. In their study, six 14-month-olds wore an eye tracker—two miniature cameras mounted on a flexible headband—while they played with their moms in a room filled with obstacles and toys. The study finds that the babies sometimes look directly at what’s before them—an opportunistic exploration of what’s ahead, for example, when they look toward obstacles before crawling or to objects before reaching. But at times, they don’t look at relevant areas in the environment, for example, when they don’t look toward the obstacles before stepping over them or to their moms’ faces in response to maternal speech. The study demonstrates that head-mounted eye tracking can be used to measure infants’ visual exploration when they’re involved in real life situations; as such, it provides new possibilities for developmental research.

Toddlers spend a lot of time exploring objects and developing the skills they need to relate objects to one another and use objects to perform goal-directed actions. In this process, little is known about the development of vision for action. Street, James, Jones, and Smith (p. 2083) studied almost 80 toddlers, ages 18 and 24 months, looking specifically at how they did in a task involving aligning and inserting disks into a slot, a crucial skill involving using vision to carry out an action. They find that 18-month-olds performed poorly on the task and 24-month-olds succeeded easily, suggesting that coordinating vision and manual action is a gradual achievement occurring over the first years of life, even for some basic types of tasks. More broadly, the findings shed light on our understanding of neural and cognitive development in toddlers.

Telling Tales in School

  1. Top of page
  2. Prejudice, Discrimination, and Engagement
  3. Vision for Action
  4. Telling Tales in School
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Certainty Judgments
  7. Language Lessons
  8. Autism: Face First
  9. Peer Rejection and Conflict
  10. Source Memory
  11. Children in Poverty: How Home Life Influences Behavior, Cognition
  12. Buffers to Aggression
  13. Conceptual Change
  14. Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool
  15. Reading for Fun

What social and environmental factors contribute to the early development of lying? Talwar and Lee (p. 1751) conducted natural experimental research in two private schools in West Africa, where the tradition of harsh physical punishment has been outlawed in public schools, but isn’t illegal in private schools. The study looked at lie-telling behavior among more than 80 children ages 3–6; half the children attended a school that allowed harsh punishment, the other half attended a school that didn’t. Children were told not to peek at a toy when left alone in a room, then asked if they had done so. Most of the children at the punitive school lied about peeking, whereas significantly fewer children at the nonpunitive school did so. And the children at the punitive school were better able to maintain their deception when answering follow-up questions than the children at the nonpunitive school. This suggests that a punitive environment not only fosters increased dishonesty but also promotes children’s abilities to lie to conceal their transgressions.

Peer Pressure

  1. Top of page
  2. Prejudice, Discrimination, and Engagement
  3. Vision for Action
  4. Telling Tales in School
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Certainty Judgments
  7. Language Lessons
  8. Autism: Face First
  9. Peer Rejection and Conflict
  10. Source Memory
  11. Children in Poverty: How Home Life Influences Behavior, Cognition
  12. Buffers to Aggression
  13. Conceptual Change
  14. Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool
  15. Reading for Fun

Children as young as 4 conform to peer pressure. That’s what Haun and Tomasello (p. 1759) find in their study of almost 100 German 4-year-olds and a follow-up study with more than 70 German 4-year-olds. In both studies, children’s behavior was assessed in both private and public situations; children conformed more when giving their responses to questions about pictures in a book when they were in public than they did in private, resembling how adults act. The findings have implications for parents, educators, and others who are around children, making it clear that even before school starts, children are under pressure to conform.

How well children do academically is tied to how well their classmates do, past studies have found. The issue of “peer effects” plays out in classrooms across the United States through such practices as tracking. In their longitudinal study of more than 330 ethnically diverse 4-year-olds, Justice, Petscher, Schatschneider, and Mashburn (p. 1768) asked whether peer effects exist in preschool classrooms, and they looked specifically at children’s language development. They also examined whether certain children seem particularly affected by their classmates’ skills. Findings: Preschoolers’ language growth was associated with the average level of language skills shown by their classmates. Children who had more limited language skills than their classmates seemed to be more affected by their classmates’ skills than students who were highly skilled. The findings have implications for policy and practice, especially among disadvantaged children with low skill levels who are clustered with similarly performing peers.

Past research suggests that people generally show increasing levels of externalizing problems (such as aggression and delinquency) into their mid- to late teens, followed by a period of maturation as they transition to adulthood. Latendresse et al. (p. 1797) sought to determine how genetic predispositions affect this process. In their study of more than 450 people ages 12–22, they find that a gene that’s been implicated in adult dependency on alcohol and in teen conduct disorder symptoms was associated with developmental patterns of externalizing behavior. Moreover, this genetic risk worsened among individuals who were exposed to higher levels of antisocial behavior among peers. Given the finding that decreasing the amount of exposure to antisocial peers can reduce an individual’s genetic risk, this study can inform efforts at prevention.

Certainty Judgments

  1. Top of page
  2. Prejudice, Discrimination, and Engagement
  3. Vision for Action
  4. Telling Tales in School
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Certainty Judgments
  7. Language Lessons
  8. Autism: Face First
  9. Peer Rejection and Conflict
  10. Source Memory
  11. Children in Poverty: How Home Life Influences Behavior, Cognition
  12. Buffers to Aggression
  13. Conceptual Change
  14. Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool
  15. Reading for Fun

Researchers have shown that preschoolers prefer learning from more knowledgeable individuals than from others who don’t know a lot or make mistakes. Brosseau-Liard and Birch (p. 1788) looked at more than 100 Canadian 4- and 5-year-olds, assessing their attention to two types of knowledge cues: past accuracy (which indicates how “smart” someone is) and access to information (which shows how informed someone is about a specific fact). In two experiments with puppets, the study finds that young children are flexible in their use of knowledge cues—that is, they can evaluate which cue is the most important in different learning situations. The findings suggest a sophistication in children’s assessment of others’ knowledge and have implications for the study of teaching and social learning.

In their daily lives, children face a variety of decision-making dilemmas. But we don’t know a lot about how children develop their feelings of uncertainty about their ability to move forward with a choice without making a mistake. Lyons and Ghetti (p. 1778) examined more than seventy 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds to gauge their ability to evaluate their sense of certainty about the likely accuracy of their decisions. They find that even 3-year-olds monitor their uncertainty, reporting higher certainty about accurate decisions compared to inaccurate decisions, and this capacity improves throughout the preschool years. Contrary to the widely held notion that young children can’t engage in overt evaluation and introspection of their minds’ work, this study suggests that preschoolers are aware of at least some dimensions of their thinking and decision making.

Language Lessons

  1. Top of page
  2. Prejudice, Discrimination, and Engagement
  3. Vision for Action
  4. Telling Tales in School
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Certainty Judgments
  7. Language Lessons
  8. Autism: Face First
  9. Peer Rejection and Conflict
  10. Source Memory
  11. Children in Poverty: How Home Life Influences Behavior, Cognition
  12. Buffers to Aggression
  13. Conceptual Change
  14. Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool
  15. Reading for Fun

In the United States, many children of immigrant parents begin to acquire both their parents’ native language and English in early childhood. Place and Hoff (p. 1834) asked mothers of almost thirty 2-year-olds living in bilingual homes to keep detailed language diaries of their children’s exposure to English and Spanish over 7 days. Children who heard more English than Spanish had more English than Spanish words in their vocabularies and were more advanced in English grammar than Spanish grammar. But it wasn’t just how much children heard each language, but from whom they heard it that influenced development. Children who were exposed to English by interacting with several different people and with native English speakers had more advanced English skills than children who heard the same amount of English but from fewer sources and from nonnative speakers. The findings have implications for bilingual language instruction.

Autism: Face First

  1. Top of page
  2. Prejudice, Discrimination, and Engagement
  3. Vision for Action
  4. Telling Tales in School
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Certainty Judgments
  7. Language Lessons
  8. Autism: Face First
  9. Peer Rejection and Conflict
  10. Source Memory
  11. Children in Poverty: How Home Life Influences Behavior, Cognition
  12. Buffers to Aggression
  13. Conceptual Change
  14. Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool
  15. Reading for Fun

Children with autism often have difficulty interpreting information from faces. Is face processing atypical from birth for children with autism, or do face-processing skills develop along a typical path but on a delayed timescale? Webb et al. (p. 1868) used EEGs and interviewed parents about their children’s behavior to explore the developmental origins of face-processing impairments in autism. In their study, they find that among 18- to 30-month-old children with autism, brain responses to faces matched those of 12- to 18-month-old typically developing children. The results suggest that the development of face processing is delayed rather than atypical in early autism, and that delays in face processing are associated with delays in the development of other adaptive social behaviors.

Peer Rejection and Conflict

  1. Top of page
  2. Prejudice, Discrimination, and Engagement
  3. Vision for Action
  4. Telling Tales in School
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Certainty Judgments
  7. Language Lessons
  8. Autism: Face First
  9. Peer Rejection and Conflict
  10. Source Memory
  11. Children in Poverty: How Home Life Influences Behavior, Cognition
  12. Buffers to Aggression
  13. Conceptual Change
  14. Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool
  15. Reading for Fun

How does children’s development of social understanding—how they make sense of people’s behavior in terms of their thoughts and feelings—map on to the relationships children have within their peer groups? Banerjee, Watling, and Caputi (p. 1887) worked with British children ages 5–6 and 8–9, following them over three school years. In their longitudinal study, they examined children’s understanding of faux pas—social blunders involving unintentional insults. They find that early peer rejection seems to make it harder for children to develop a mature understanding of faux pas, which in turn increases the likelihood that children will face even more rejection. The findings highlight the important and complex associations between social understanding and peer relations in childhood; as such, they can help in the development of strategies for supporting children who are rejected at school.

Social rejection can cause stress, as evidenced by increases in cortisol. This has been seen in preschoolers, adolescents, and adults. But what happens in middle childhood, a time when peer rejection can be particularly stressful and friendships are key? Peters, Riksen-Walraven, Cillessen, and de Weerth (p. 1906) looked at whether victimization and exclusion in almost 100 Dutch fourth graders were related to increases in cortisol, and whether friendships moderated this association. They find that children who were excluded had elevated levels of cortisol at school, and that the number and quality of the children’s friendships served as a buffer against the negative effects of being rejected.

When children have conflicts with their classmates, especially if they’re ambiguous or ill defined, their responses are influenced by a number of factors. Among these are children’s characteristics or general tendencies and the specifics of the situation. Bystanders who witness conflicts between peers also play a part, but little research has been done on the degree of their influence. Smith-Schrandt, Ojanen, Gesten, Feldman, and Calhoun (p. 1921) looked at the emotional and behavioral reactions of more than 350 children in grades 4 and 5 to hypothetical conflicts between classmates. They find that children adjusted their response to potential conflicts with peers based on the actions and comments of the antagonist and a best friend who witnessed the event so that, in short, friends became interpreters, helping figure out what happened and an appropriate response. In finding that friends can directly influence how a child responds to a conflict, the study can inform efforts to help children in conflict situations.

Source Memory

  1. Top of page
  2. Prejudice, Discrimination, and Engagement
  3. Vision for Action
  4. Telling Tales in School
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Certainty Judgments
  7. Language Lessons
  8. Autism: Face First
  9. Peer Rejection and Conflict
  10. Source Memory
  11. Children in Poverty: How Home Life Influences Behavior, Cognition
  12. Buffers to Aggression
  13. Conceptual Change
  14. Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool
  15. Reading for Fun

During childhood and adolescence, children develop the ability to remember not only past events but also the origin of those memories—for example, someone may remember meeting a particular person and the context in which he or she met that person. In a study from Germany, Sprondel, Kipp, and Mecklinger (p. 1938) asked children, adolescents, and young adults to complete different types of memory tasks and monitored their responses through an EEG cap. They find that the brain structures that support the recall of memory sources continuously refine and mature with age, and that the ability to remember the origin of memories isn’t fully developed until adulthood. The research has implications for the reliability of children’s testimony.

How do children think about the quality and nature of their memories—including the accuracy of a memory and the way it was originally obtained—and does the way they do so change during development? Ghetti, Mirandola, Angelini, Cornoldi, and Ciaramelli (p. 1954) examined the development of subjective recollection, or our conscious awareness that we are retrieving a certain memory and what that memory is like, in almost two hundred 6- to 18-year-olds. Findings: Although even the youngest participants had some understanding that memory may generate distinct subjective experiences depending on what’s retrieved, there were improvements with age in the ability to introspect or examine the accuracy and source of memories. Specifically, the older the children grew, the better they were at distinguishing between whether they recognized information because they could remember how they originally experienced it, or they reported a general sense of familiarity for the events they recognized. In showing that with age, children develop a more sophisticated understanding of how the mind works, this study has implications for the reliability of memory, how it continues to develop throughout childhood and adolescence, and how our memories become increasingly integrated with self-knowledge.

Children in Poverty: How Home Life Influences Behavior, Cognition

  1. Top of page
  2. Prejudice, Discrimination, and Engagement
  3. Vision for Action
  4. Telling Tales in School
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Certainty Judgments
  7. Language Lessons
  8. Autism: Face First
  9. Peer Rejection and Conflict
  10. Source Memory
  11. Children in Poverty: How Home Life Influences Behavior, Cognition
  12. Buffers to Aggression
  13. Conceptual Change
  14. Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool
  15. Reading for Fun

Executive functions are important for regulating behavior, managing new and potentially confusing information, adjusting to school, and making academic progress in the early elementary grades. We know that executive functions develop rapidly in early childhood and that they’re compromised by stress. In their longitudinal study, Blair et al. (p. 1970) addressed whether or not executive function abilities in early childhood are influenced by stress in children’s lives. Looking at almost 1,300 young children in mostly low-income homes, they examined aspects of the children’s early environment between 7 and 24 months, as well as the children’s cortisol levels. Children in lower-income homes received less positive parenting and had higher levels of cortisol in their first 2 years than children in slightly better-off homes. Cortisol was higher in African American children than in White children. Higher levels of cortisol were associated with lower levels of executive function abilities. In sum, early stresses in the lives of children living in poverty affect how these children develop executive functions that are important for school readiness.

As our economy worsens, the number of children living in poverty has dramatically increased. Children who grow up in poverty and live with at-risk single mothers—moms who don’t have much education, have mental health problems, are unemployed, drink a lot or take drugs, and move frequently—are more likely to have cognitive difficulties and behavior problems. But how do children fare when not only their mothers but also their fathers are at risk? Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort Study, Cabrera, Fagan, Wight, and Schadler (p. 1985) studied more than four thousand 2-year-olds who lived with both biological parents; 15% lived below the poverty level. Findings: Children whose moms were at risk had more cognitive difficulties than other children. Children with mothers and fathers who were at risk had fewer cognitive skills, fewer positive social skills, and more negative social skills than children who lived with only one at-risk parent; in these households, mothers were less sensitive and supportive of their children, and their parenting served as a filter through which the risk of both parents influenced the children. The findings have implications for preventive interventions that involve addressing risk levels of both parents.

Buffers to Aggression

  1. Top of page
  2. Prejudice, Discrimination, and Engagement
  3. Vision for Action
  4. Telling Tales in School
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Certainty Judgments
  7. Language Lessons
  8. Autism: Face First
  9. Peer Rejection and Conflict
  10. Source Memory
  11. Children in Poverty: How Home Life Influences Behavior, Cognition
  12. Buffers to Aggression
  13. Conceptual Change
  14. Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool
  15. Reading for Fun

Children who are persistently aggressive, defiant, and explosive by the time they’re in kindergarten very often have tumultuous relationships with their parents from early on. But how does this process start? In a longitudinal study, Lorber and Egeland (p. 2006) looked at more than 260 mothers and their children, following them from the children’s birth until first grade. They find that it’s negative parenting in early infancy that matters most, as well as whether conflict between moms and their toddlers worsens. In a cyclical process, the study suggests, negative parenting during infancy sets the stage for future hostile and angry interactions between moms and toddlers, and eventually children’s behavior problems. The research has implications for intervening as early as 3 months to help parents prevent later conduct problems in kids.

Children’s relationships with teachers and peers in school play a critical role in shaping their social and behavioral development. In genetically informed research, Brendgen et al. (p. 2021) studied more than 200 Canadian twin pairs at age 7 to delve into the interplay between nature and nurture involving the derivation of aggression in the children. They find that children who are genetically vulnerable to being aggressive were protected from acting on that aggression and being the target of other children’s aggression if they had a very good relationship with their teacher—a relationship that was warm and affectionate and involved open communication. The findings can inform interventions aimed at addressing children’s aggression.

Conceptual Change

  1. Top of page
  2. Prejudice, Discrimination, and Engagement
  3. Vision for Action
  4. Telling Tales in School
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Certainty Judgments
  7. Language Lessons
  8. Autism: Face First
  9. Peer Rejection and Conflict
  10. Source Memory
  11. Children in Poverty: How Home Life Influences Behavior, Cognition
  12. Buffers to Aggression
  13. Conceptual Change
  14. Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool
  15. Reading for Fun

Knowledge can be stored in the mind either implicitly, which means we are unaware of it, or explicitly, which means it’s available consciously. Do explicit and implicit memories inform one another, and if so, how might they support concept development? To explore these questions, Cheung and Wong (p. 2037) used a microanalytic approach to look at conceptual changes in two dozen children ages 4–9 as they worked on a block-building task. To analyze the children’s behaviors, they used the Representational Redescription model, which focuses on how information that’s retained in our memories changes in the level of explicitness, and how these changes affect our behaviors. Past research has found that as we develop, we redescribe our representations of things we’ve done and that reside in our memories. This study finds that as children age, knowledge that was initially implicit becomes increasingly explicit, and their experiences working with these representations help them modify and further develop their concepts. In short, this study used building block toys to reveal some of the building blocks of human knowledge.

As children develop, they learn about the causal structure of the world. One important part of this knowledge is about causal mechanisms: the events that occur between cause and effect. Buchanan and Sobel (p. 2053) looked into the development of mechanism-based reasoning among almost ninety 3- and 4-year-olds. Experiments showed cause and effect (such as having a child press on a light to cause it to illuminate), then changed the setup (e.g., some lights that illuminated now didn’t). Four-year-olds, but not 3-year-olds, correctly predicted the change, but only if it was relevant (an example of an irrelevant change would be moving a wooden block). When 3-year-olds were tested with more familiar mechanisms (batteries instead of light connections), they were able to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant changes to the causal mechanism. This suggests that 3-year-olds are capable of mechanism-based reaching, as long as the mechanism is familiar. Together, these data suggest that understanding of specific causal mechanisms develops at different ages.

The distinction between living things (such as plants and animals) and artificial objects (such as tools and toys) is essential for our understanding of the world. How do preschoolers understand the living world? Some past studies show that their reasoning about living things is very different from adults, while others suggest that it’s similar, but less rich. In their examination of more than 30 children ages 3–5 and more than 30 adults, Margett and Witherington (p. 2067) sought to determine how preschoolers think about and understand living and artificial things, compared with adults. While preschoolers demonstrate both confusion and competence in this area, the study finds that the beginnings of a biologically based framework for understanding the living world are in place in the preschool period as the children begin to distinguish living things from artificial ones.

Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool

  1. Top of page
  2. Prejudice, Discrimination, and Engagement
  3. Vision for Action
  4. Telling Tales in School
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Certainty Judgments
  7. Language Lessons
  8. Autism: Face First
  9. Peer Rejection and Conflict
  10. Source Memory
  11. Children in Poverty: How Home Life Influences Behavior, Cognition
  12. Buffers to Aggression
  13. Conceptual Change
  14. Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool
  15. Reading for Fun

Previous studies have found that state-funded prekindergarten programs enhance children’s cognitive development, but less is known about the effects of early childhood education on children’s social and emotional development. Gormley, Phillips, Newmark, Welti, and Adelstein (p. 2095) focused on more than three thousand 4-year-olds enrolled in either a public pre-K program or a Head Start Program; some of the children attended neither program. Findings: Participation in the pre-K program modestly enhanced children’s social-emotional development. Children in the pre-K program were less timid and more attentive than children who didn’t go to either the pre-K or Head Start. Also, the study didn’t find increases in aggressive or disobedient behavior among the preschoolers in both programs, as has been seen in some prior child care studies. The findings suggest that high-quality school-based pre-K programs can support the development of some social-emotional skills that boost children’s readiness to start kindergarten.

Children get more or less benefit from their early educational experience depending on the levels of socioemotional support and stimulation at home. That’s what Bradley, McKelvey, and Whiteside-Mansell (p. 2110) find, based on an analysis of the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation study, which involved more than 3,000 children ages 3–5 and their families who attended 17 program sites. Most prior research has focused on the “average” benefit from programs; this study looked at the processes that account for why some children seem to benefit more while others benefit less. The study, which examined the interaction of Early Head Start with both early emotional warmth from the children’s mothers and the quality of the home environment, suggests that one size doesn’t fit all equally well when it comes to early education, and improving program quality requires a nuanced approach.

Reading for Fun

  1. Top of page
  2. Prejudice, Discrimination, and Engagement
  3. Vision for Action
  4. Telling Tales in School
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Certainty Judgments
  7. Language Lessons
  8. Autism: Face First
  9. Peer Rejection and Conflict
  10. Source Memory
  11. Children in Poverty: How Home Life Influences Behavior, Cognition
  12. Buffers to Aggression
  13. Conceptual Change
  14. Promoting Social and Emotional Development in Preschool
  15. Reading for Fun

Educators have long emphasized the importance of reading for fun or leisure. However, although such independent reading is linked to reading achievement, it’s possible that the cause-and-effect arrow points in the other direction: Reading achievement influences independent reading so good readers tend to read more. To better understand what causes what and also to determine what role genetics play, Harlaar, Deater-Deckard, Thompson, DeThorne, and Petrill (p. 2123) took a longitudinal look at reading achievement and independent reading in more than 435 pairs of identical and same-sex nonidentical twins at age 10 and again a year later at 11; parents estimated how often their children read for pleasure. Findings: Independent reading doesn’t directly improve children’s achievement in reading, at least among children at the end of elementary school. Moreover, individual differences in independent reading among 11-year-olds partly reflect genetic influences on reading achievement at age 10. The findings suggest that genetic influences that contribute to individual differences in children’s reading abilities also influence the extent to which children actively seek out and create opportunities to read on their own.

Anne Bridgman