1. Higher IQ in childhood is linked to a longer life

    July 20, 2017 by Ashley

    From the BMJ press release:

    Higher intelligence (IQ) in childhood is associated with a lower lifetime risk of major causes of death, including heart disease, stroke, smoking related cancers, respiratory disease and dementia, finds a study published by The BMJ today.

    It is the largest study to date reporting causes of death in men and women across the life course, and the findings suggest that lifestyle, especially tobacco smoking, is an important component in the effect of intelligence on differences in mortality.

    Previous studies have shown that, on average, individuals with higher IQs tend to live a little longer than those with lower IQs, but these are largely based on data from male conscripts followed up only to middle adulthood.

    So a team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh set out to examine the association between intelligence test scores measured at age 11 and leading causes of death in men and women up to age 79.

    Their findings are based on data from 33,536 men and 32,229 women born in Scotland in 1936, who took a validated childhood intelligence test at age 11, and who could be linked to cause of death data up to December 2015.

    Cause of death included coronary heart disease, stroke, specific cancers, respiratory disease, digestive disease, external causes (including suicide and death from injury), and dementia.

    After taking account of several factors (confounders) that could have influenced the results, such as age, sex and socioeconomic status, the researchers found that higher childhood intelligence was associated with a lower risk of death until age 79.

    For example, a higher test score was associated with a 28% reduced risk of death from respiratory disease, a 25% reduced risk of death from coronary heart disease, and a 24% reduced risk of death from stroke.

    Other notable associations were seen for deaths from injury, smoking related cancers (particularly lung and stomach), digestive disease, and dementia. There was no evident association between childhood intelligence and death from cancers not related to smoking.

    The authors outline some study limitations which could have introduced bias. However, key strengths include the whole population sample, 68-year follow up, and ability to adjust for important confounders.

    They also point out that significant associations remained after further adjustment for smoking and socioeconomic status, suggesting that these factors did not fully account for mortality differences. And they say future studies “would benefit from measures of the cumulative load of such risk factors over the life course.”

    This study is the largest to date reporting causes of death across the life course, and it provides us with interesting results, say researchers based in Sweden, in a linked editorial.

    “Importantly, it shows that childhood IQ is strongly associated with causes of death that are, to a great extent, dependent on already known risk factors,” they write. And they suggest that “tobacco smoking and its distribution along the socioeconomic spectrum could be of particular importance here.”

    In conclusion, they say: “It remains to be seen if this is the full story or if IQ signals something deeper, and possibly genetic, in its relation to longevity.”


  2. Children play key role in making early education successful

    July 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Northwestern University press release:

    The way children engage with their teachers, peers and tasks is vital to the success of early-childhood education but greatly underestimated, according to new Northwestern University research.

    Contrary to conventional wisdom, emotionally supportive, well-organized and stimulating pre-kindergarten classrooms may not be enough — especially for low-income children, according to the study.

    “Children bring a lot to the table,” said Terri Sabol, an assistant professor of human development and social policy in the School of Education and Social Policy, who led the research. “It’s important to look beyond overall classroom quality and capture children’s individual experiences in classroom settings.”

    Children’s individual engagement was related to their developmental gains, even after accounting for emotional support, classroom organization and instructional support at the classroom level.

    Positive engagement with teachers was related to improved literacy skills, and positive engagement with peers was related to improved language and self-regulatory skills. In addition, positive engagement with tasks was related to closer relationships with teachers.

    Children who were negatively engaged in the classroom — those who got into conflicts with teachers or peers — were at a comparative disadvantage in terms of their school readiness, the study found. Children with higher levels of negative engagement performed at lower levels across nearly all of the academic, language, and social outcomes measured, including lower language, literacy and self-regulatory skills.

    High-quality early childhood education has long been hailed as a promising approach to narrowing the achievement gap. But assessment of early-childhood education programs has emphasized teachers, often missing the central role that children play in their own development, according to the study of low-income, ethnically diverse students.

    Conducted by researchers at Northwestern, Montana State University Billings and the University of Virginia, the study was published in the journal Child Development.

    The study looked at 211 low-income, racially and ethnically diverse 4-year-olds in 49 classrooms in state and federally funded preschool programs. Researchers measured the children’s engagement in the classroom by observing their positive and negative interactions with teachers, peers and tasks.

    “We have to think about children as active participants in their own education when we are devising interventions,” said Sabol, who also is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern and leads the University’s Development, Early Education and Policy Lab.

    The lab produces innovative and functional scholarship aimed at improving the lives of low-income children.

    A former first grade teacher, Sabol personally observed these patterns in her classroom at Lavizzo Elementary School on Chicago’s South Side, where she taught first graders with Teach For America before enrolling in graduate school.

    The student body at Lavizzo is 96 percent low income, according to the 2015-16 Illinois Report Card.

    “After teaching 35 low-income first graders, I took a step back and tried to understand why is it that by the time the kids are in first grade, they’re already behind before they even started,” Sabol said. “This study takes some of the emphasis off of teachers and really unpacks the positive and negative effects of children’s engagement on their own learning.”


  3. Food allergies linked to childhood anxiety

    July 18, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health press release:

    Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and Albert Einstein College of Medicine studied the link between food allergy and childhood anxiety and depression among a sample of predominantly low socioeconomic status minority children. The results showed that children with a food allergy had a significantly higher prevalence of childhood anxiety. Food allergies were not associated with symptoms of childhood depression or with symptoms of anxiety or depression among their caregivers. The results are published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

    Food allergies are increasingly common among youth in the U.S. with recent estimates as high as 8 percent. Until now little was known about the prevalence of food allergy in low socioeconomic ethnic minority populations.

    The researchers studied 80 pediatric patients ages 4-12 years, 8 years old on average, with and without food allergy and their caregivers from urban pediatric outpatient clinics in the Bronx, New York. They controlled for an asthma diagnosis in the children, as anxiety and mood disorders are more prevalent among youth with asthma and especially more common in low socioeconomic minority children.

    Among the children with a food allergy, 57 percent reported having symptoms of anxiety compared to 48 percent of children without a food allergy. Approximately 48 percent of the children had symptoms of depression with or without a food allergy.

    “Management of food allergy can be expensive both in terms of food shopping, meal preparation, and the cost of epinephrine auto-injectors, which expire annually,” said Renee Goodwin, PhD, in the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and lead author. “These demands could result in higher levels of anxiety for those with fewer financial resources and further heighten anxiety symptoms in children and their caregivers.”

    The results suggest that food allergy is particularly linked to elevated social anxiety and fear of social rejection and humiliation. “There are a number of possible explanations for the relationship found between food allergy diagnosis and increased social anxiety issues in this sample of pediatric patients,” noted Dr. Goodwin. “Management of a potentially life-threatening condition may be anxiety provoking, and some children may experience increased social anxiety about being “different” from other children depending on their age and how food allergy is managed by adults in a particular setting.”

    The researchers also point out a possible explanation for not finding a link between food allergy and depression in children. The sample was young, and the mean age of onset for depression is significantly later than anxiety. “It would be worthwhile to examine these relationships among older adolescents and young adults with food allergy who are at the peak of risk for depression onset, especially because early anxiety is associated with increased risk for subsequent onset of depression,” said Jonathan Feldman, PhD, professor of Psychology at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Yeshiva University.

    “With the high prevalence of food allergies today, education in schools remains a priority,” said Dr. Goodwin. “Given the strong association between food allergy and social anxiety in children future investigations on the food allergy-mental health relationship are also warranted in clinical, school, and community-based settings which could aid in the development of interventions.”


  4. Study recommends children with autism should be checked for DCD

    by Ashley

    From the University of Texas at Arlington press release:

    UTA researchers are recommending in a new study that children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder should be checked for developmental coordination disorder since the two maladies are linked.

    In an article published this month in the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, Priscila Caçola, an assistant professor of kinesiology; UTA librarian Peace Ossom Williamson and Haylie Miller, an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, recommend that individuals with autism be evaluated thoroughly for the possibility of DCD.

    DCD, a neurodevelopmental condition, affects between 2 and 7 percent of school-age children. It is considered one of the major problems afflicting school-age children around the world. Symptoms include poor balance and coordination and underdeveloped handwriting skills. They struggle with basic childhood activities such as riding bicycles. Children with DCD tend to have limited or no athletic ability, are more sedentary and therefore more prone to obesity. They also are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem.

    Many children with autism spectrum disorder have traits commonly found in those with DCD. But the researchers sought to highlight some of the differences, including working memory ability and their ability to grasp things like pencils properly with their hands. They found that there are more differences than similarities.

    Caçola is an expert on DCD. She is the director of UTA’s Little Mavs Movement Academy, a free group intervention program designed to improve the motor skills of children age four to 16.

    Caçola and her colleagues analyzed11 articles that highlighted differences between individuals with ASD and DCD. While there are many similarities and some overlap between the two conditions, they are not identical. The researchers say that for this reason, medical professionals should be more aggressive about finding signs of DCD in children with autism.

    “Motor skills are the root of DCD but they are also really important in autism,” Caçola said. “When autism is diagnosed, motor skills are not the primary concern. But we also found that that there is a lot of co-occurrence of DCD in autism. A lot of individuals may have autism but they are not assessed for DCD. We really need to assess for DCD in children with autism and the earlier the better.”

    Caçola said the notion that DCD can be present in autism is new and gaining more attention because more people now recognize the importance of having strong motor skills. Poor motor skills, if left unchecked, can have lifelong consequences for children in nearly every sphere of their lives, she said.

    “Poor motor skills could be impairing social skills even more,” she added.

    Anne Bavier, dean of UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, called Caçola’s study an important contribution to the still evolving body of knowledge on DCD.

    “Priscila’s scholarly work coupled with her expertise and passion for tackling DCD has the potential to touch the lives of exponentially more children, not only here in the DFW area but around the country and around the world,” Bavier said.


  5. Picture overload hinders children’s word learning from storybooks

    July 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Sussex press release:

    Less is more when it comes to helping children learn new vocabulary from picture books, according to a new study.

    While publishers look to produce ever more colourful and exciting texts to entice buyers, University of Sussex psychologists have shown that having more than one illustration per page results in poorer word learning among pre-schoolers.

    The findings, published in Infant and Child Development, present a simple solution to parents and nursery teachers for some of the challenges of pre-school education and could help in the development of learning materials for young children.

    Doctoral researcher and co-author Zoe Flack said: “Luckily, children like hearing stories, and adults like reading them to children. But children who are too young to read themselves don’t know where to look because they are not following the text. This has a dramatic impact on how well they learn new words from stories.”

    The researchers read storybooks to three-year-olds with one illustration at a time (the right-hand page was illustrated, the left-hand page was blank) or with two illustrations at a time (both pages had illustrations), with illustrations introducing the child to new objects that were named on the page.

    They found that children who were read stories with only one illustration at a time learned twice as many words as children who were read stories with two or more illustrations.

    In a follow-up experiment, researchers added a simple hand swipe gesture to guide the children to look at the correct illustration before the page was read to them. They found this gesture was effective in helping children to learn words when they saw two illustrations across the page.

    Zoe, who has written a blog post about the research, said: “This suggests that simply guiding children’s attention to the correct page helps them focus on the right illustrations, and this in turn might help them concentrate on the new words.

    “Our findings fit well with Cognitive Load Theory, which suggests that learning rates are affected by how complicated a task is. In this case, by giving children less information at once, or guiding them to the correct information, we can help children learn more words.”

    Co-author Dr Jessica Horst, said: “Other studies have shown that adding ‘bells and whistles’ to storybooks like flaps to lift and anthropomorphic animals decreases learning. But this is the first study to examine how decreasing the number of illustrations increases children’s word learning from storybooks.”

    She added: “This study also has important implications for the e-Book industry. Studies on the usefulness of teaching vocabulary from e-Books are mixed, but our study suggests one explanation is that many studies with e-Books are only presenting one illustration at a time.”

    The study is one of many being carried out at Sussex in The WORD Lab, a research group that focuses on how children learn and acquire language. Previous research has shown children learn more words from hearing the same stories repeated and from hearing stories at nap time.


  6. Study shows childhood psychiatric disorders increase risk for later adult addiction

    July 12, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Elsevier press release:

    Children’s health and well-being while growing up can be indicators of the potential health issues they may encounter years later. A study published in the July 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry(JAACAP) suggests that a childhood psychiatric disorder increases the risk of developing addiction later in life. Based on a large amount of data from previous studies on these participants, the researchers identified a correlation between various psychiatric disorders among children and later risk of developing addictions.

    The team, led by researchers from the Child Study group at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and Accare, the Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University Medical Center Groningen, the Netherlands, found that individuals diagnosed in childhood with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)/conduct disorder (CD), and depression had an increased risk of developing addictions. Interestingly, results concerning anxiety were less clear. The risk may depend on the specific type of anxiety disorder, but to date, no studies have focused on this topic.

    “We know that ADHD in childhood increases the risk for later substance-related disorders, but until now, no systematic evaluation of other childhood psychiatric disorders had been conducted,” said Dr. Annabeth P. Groenman, researcher at Accare, Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Medical Center Groningen, the Netherlands. “Our findings show that not only ADHD increased the risk of addictions, but that other childhood psychiatric disorders also increased risk. This indicates the importance of early detection of mental health problems in a wider group. Addiction is a major cause of immense personal, familial, and societal burden, and prevention is therefore an important goal.”

    The study re-analyzed data of 37 previous studies containing a total of 762,187 individuals, of whom 22,029 had ADHD, 434 had disruptive behavior disorders (such as ODD/CD), 1,433 had anxiety disorder, and 2,451 had depression. The researchers identified studies looking at childhood psychiatric disorders and later addiction.

    Disruptive behaviors (ODD/CD) frequently co-occur with ADHD, in approximately 30% of cases. This so-called “comorbidity” is often thought to be the main cause of addictions in individuals with ADHD. However, the results suggest that co-occurring ODD/CD in ADHD does not fully explain the risk of addictions in this group.

    Professor Jaap Oosterlaan, principal investigator of the Child Study Group at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and the Emma Children’s Hospital AMC, the Netherlands, said: “Now that we have firmly established children with psychiatric disorders as a high-risk group for later substance-related disorders, the next step is to make parents, clinicians, and the government aware of these risks and work together in reducing the risks for addiction and its debilitating consequences.”


  7. Study suggests counting on fingers may be important part of math learning

    July 10, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    Is it OK for children to count on their fingers? Generations of pupils have been discouraged by their teachers from using their hands when learning maths. But a new research article, published in Frontiers in Education shows using fingers may be a much more important part of maths learning than previously thought.

    The article, by Professor Tim Jay of Sheffield Hallam University and independent researcher Dr Julie Betenson, confirms what parents have long felt instinctively — that the sorts of finger games children often play at home are central to their education.

    The researchers worked with 137 primary pupils aged between six and seven. All the children were given different combinations of counting and number games to play — but only some were given exercises which involved finger-training.

    Some pupils played games involving number symbols, such as dominoes, shut-the-box, or snakes and ladders.

    Other pupils were asked to play finger games: such being asked to hold up a given number of fingers, or numbering fingers from 1 — 5 and then having to match one of them by touching it against the corresponding finger on the other hand, or tracing coloured lines using a particular finger.

    Both these groups did a little better in maths tests than a third group of pupils who had simply had ‘business as usual’ with their teachers. But the group which did both the counting and the finger games fared significantly better.

    “This study provides evidence that fingers provide children with a ‘bridge’ between different representations of numbers, which can be verbal, written or symbolic. Combined finger training and number games could be a useful tool for teachers to support children’s understanding of numbers,” Professor Jay said.

     


  8. Elevated rate of autism symptoms found in children with Tourette syndrome

    by Ashley

    From the University of California – San Francisco press release:

    Around one in five children with Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements and vocalizations, met criteria for autism in a study headed by UC San Francisco. But this prevalence may be more a reflection of similarity in symptoms than actual autism, according to the study’s researchers.

    Researchers tested 535 children and adults with Tourette’s for autism, using a self-reporting test called the Social Responsiveness Scale. Among the 294 children tested, 22.8 percent reached the cutoff for autism, versus 8.7 percent of the 241 adults. In contrast, autism is estimated to affect between 0.3 and 2.9 percent of the general population, according to studies cited in the paper.

    The Social Responsiveness Scale Second Edition is a 65-item quantitative measure of autism symptoms that assesses the ability to engage in “emotionally appropriate reciprocal social interactions.” It evaluates levels of social awareness, social cognition, social communication, social motivation, and restrictive interests and repetitive behavior. Its threshold for autism compares favorably with the diagnostic gold standard, the Autism Diagnostic Interview, the researchers noted.

    The study is publishing on June 22, 2017, in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

    OCD, ADHD Frequent Co-Occurrences

    The researchers wanted to examine autism symptoms in patients with Tourette’s, including those whose diagnosis was coupled with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conditions that frequently co-occur. Tourette’s, OCD and ADHD have been shown to share common symptoms and genetic relationships in a recent study by the same researchers.

    “Assessing autism symptom patterns in a large Tourette’s sample may be helpful in determining whether some of this overlap is due to symptoms found in both disorders, rather than an overlapping etiology,” said first author Sabrina Darrow, PhD, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at UCSF.

    “Our results suggest that although autism diagnoses were higher in individuals with Tourette’s, some of the increase may be due to autism-like symptoms, especially repetitive behaviors that are more strongly related to obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

    The researchers found that the highest scores on the Social Responsiveness Scale, which met autism criteria, were found in participants with Tourette’s and either OCD or ADHD. Among those with Tourette’s who met the cutoff for autism, 83 percent also met criteria for OCD, the researchers found, noting that high scores were especially evident in the part of the autism test that measures restrictive interests and repetitive behavior.

    Wide Gulf Between Adults, Kids with Autism Diagnosis.

    A potentially compelling argument against the surprisingly high rates of autism found in this sample was the wide discrepancy between children and adults who met the diagnostic criteria. Tourette’s is usually diagnosed between the ages of 3 and 9; symptoms most often peak in the early teens and start to abate in the early twenties, with continued improvement in early adulthood.

    “Children were more than twice as likely to meet the cutoff than adults, indicating that as tics recede, so do symptoms of autism. In contrast, autism is usually lifelong,” said Darrow.

    “Previous studies have shown that children with mood and anxiety disorders also have higher rates of autism symptoms, based on the Social Responsiveness Scale,” said senior author Carol Mathews, MD, who did the research while a professor of psychiatry at UCSF. She currently is adjunct professor of psychiatry at UCSF and professor of psychiatry at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

    Psychiatric Impairment Possible Factor in Diagnosis

    “This suggests that some of the increase may reflect underlying psychiatric impairment rather than being specific for autism. Some of the children in the study probably have autism, others have symptoms that mimic autism, but are not really due to autism. These symptoms are called phenocopies.”

    Tourette’s affects between one and 10 in 1,000 children according to the National Institutes of Health. Like autism, it is significantly more prevalent in males. Common tics include repetitive throat clearing, blinking or grimacing. Most people do not require medication to suppress their symptoms, but treatment may be recommended for co-occurring ADHD and OCD.


  9. Study suggests starting school young can put child wellbeing at risk

    July 6, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Exeter press release:

    New research has shown that the youngest pupils in each school year group could be at risk of worse mental health than their older classmates.

    Starting school young is an exciting but sometimes challenging milestone for children and their families. Some children will be nearing their fifth birthday as they enter foundation classes while others will be only just four.

    Now, a study led by the University of Exeter Medical School which investigated more than 2,000 children across 80 primary schools in Devon, has found that children who are younger than their peers when they start school are more likely to develop poorer mental health, as rated by parents and teachers. Overall the effect was small, however researchers believe the additional stress of keeping up with older peers could prove a “tipping point” for vulnerable children, such as those with learning difficulties or who were born prematurely.

    The research team was supported by the National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research Programme and the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula (NIHR PenCLAHRC).

    The research, published in the journal Child Care, Health and Development, could have implications on parents’ decisions on whether to defer their child’s school entry for a school year, permissible under guidance introduced in 2014.

    The findings could also influence how teachers interact with younger children, particularly those with additional complex needs in the class, and on assessments and teaching and support structures within classrooms.

    Anna Price, of the University of Exeter Medical School, was motivated to study the issue after home schooling her own April-born son, who has pre-existing learning difficulties, and was not ready to start school aged five. She said: “Using such a large dataset was a chance to explore what’s really happening in practice for children who start school at a young age. We found that children who started younger had slightly worse well-being- however, this effect was very small and unlikely to make a difference for most. The challenge to well-being of being young for your school year might however be one struggle too many for children who face other challenges to their mental health. Our findings can help guide parents and teachers in making decisions that best support the child.”

    The researchers also explored the impact of starting school early on the child’s happiness levels and behaviour. In contrast to previous research, they found no significant impact on either. The research paper noted that the schools in the study had strong support in place, such as small group learning, which may have helped improve happiness and behaviour overall.

    Professor Tamsin Ford, of the University of Exeter Medical School, oversaw the research. Professor Ford, a practising child psychiatrist, said: “Being relatively younger could be the tipping point for some, but certainly not all, children. For most it would just be something for teacher’s to be aware of but for children with other needs or who were born prematurely this difference could be significant. Awareness of this issue among teachers and educators means measures can be put in place that could help to mitigate this effect and get the best outcome for children.”


  10. Positive engagement in preschool key to developmental gains

    July 5, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Society for Research in Child Development press release:

    Many interventions and programs designed to improve low-income children’s lives focus on providing high-quality early-childhood education. Preschool classrooms that are emotionally supportive, well-organized, and cognitively stimulating can help boost children’s learning and development. Yet for the most part, focusing on the quality of early-childhood education has emphasized teachers, often missing the central role that children play in their own development. A new study has found that children’s individual engagement with teachers, peers, and tasks was important to the gains they made during the preschool year, even after taking into account differences in classroom quality.

    The study, conducted by researchers at Northwestern University, Montana State University Billings, and the University of Virginia, is published in the journal Child Development.

    “Children can have very different experiences in the same classroom and their individual engagement is associated with their learning gains above and beyond the average quality of classroom instruction,” explains Terri J. Sabol, assistant professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University, who led the study. “It’s important to look beyond overall classroom quality and capture children’s individual experiences in classroom settings.”

    The study looked at 211 low-income, racially and ethnically diverse 4-year-olds in 49 classrooms in state and federally funded preschool programs. Researchers measured the children’s engagement in the classroom by observing their positive and negative interactions with teachers, peers, and tasks (e.g., their ability to communicate with teachers, sociability and assertiveness with peers, self-reliance in tasks, conflicts with teachers and peers).

    The quality of the classroom setting was also measured (e.g., the classroom climate, teachers’ sensitivity, emotional support, classroom organization), and children were assessed on measures of school readiness in the fall and the spring of their preschool year. Most previous research has examined either the effect of classroom interactions or the role of individual children’s engagement in the classroom on children’s outcomes; this study included both.

    “To truly understand and support individual children’s development, it is vital that we have observational tools that capture individual children’s engagement and the overall classroom context,” notes Natalie Bohlmann, associate professor of education at Montana State University Billings, who collaborated on the study.

    Children’s individual engagement was related to their developmental gains, even after accounting for emotional support, classroom organization, and instructional support at the classroom level, the study found. Specifically, children’s positive engagement with teachers was related to improved literacy skills and their positive engagement with peers was related to improved language and self-regulatory skills. In addition, their positive engagement with tasks related to closer relationships with teachers.

    Children who were negatively engaged in the classroom (e.g., those who got into conflicts with teachers or peers) were at a comparative disadvantage in terms of their school readiness, the study found. Children with higher levels of negative engagement performed at lower levels across nearly all of the academic, language, and social outcomes measured, including lower language, literacy, and self-regulatory skills.

    “Interventions designed to prepare children for school should include a focus on children’s individual behaviors in the classroom,” adds Jason Downer, associate professor of education at the University of Virginia, who was the lead investigator. “Observing children’s engagement can guide decisions about where, when, and how to intervene with at-risk children, and help educators enact more useful individualized strategies in the classroom.”