Longitudinal relations between behavioral engagement and academic achievement: The moderating roles of socio-economic status and early achievement

Longfeng Li, Carlos Valiente, Nancy Eisenberg, Tracy L. Spinrad, Sarah K. Johns, Rebecca H. Berger, Marilyn S. Thompson, Jody Southworth, Armando A. Pina, Maciel M. Hernández, Diana E. Gal-Szabo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study investigated developmental trajectories of observationally coded engagement across the early elementary years and whether these trajectories were associated with children's academic achievement. Furthermore, we evaluated if these relations varied as a function of children's family socio-economic status and early reading and math skills. Data were collected from 301 children who were studied from kindergarten (Mage = 65.74 months; 49% boys) to 2nd grade. Children's behavioral engagement was observed in kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade. Reading and math skills were assessed via standardized tests in kindergarten and 2nd grade. Growth mixture models identified two classes of behavioral engagement: most children (87.0%) displayed relatively high behavioral engagement in the fall of kindergarten and decreased significantly across time (referred to below as high-decreasing class), and other children (13.0%) exhibited moderate behavioral engagement in the fall of kindergarten that was stable across time (referred to below as moderate-stable class). After controlling for academic skills in kindergarten and demographic variables (i.e., child age, sex, ethnicity, and family socio-economic status), children in the high-decreasing class displayed higher reading skills, but not math skills, than children in the moderate-stable class. Additional analyses revealed that differences in reading skills between the two classes were present only for children from low socio-economic status families or for children low in kindergarten reading skills. The findings suggest that economically or academically at-risk students might benefit more than their peers from high behavioral engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-27
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of School Psychology
Volume94
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2022

Keywords

  • Academic achievement
  • Behavioral engagement
  • Developmental trajectories
  • Early elementary school

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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