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Predicting African American Children's School Competence

The specific objectives of this study are to: 1) describe the developmental trajectories of African American children's language skills, social skills, and school competence from infancy through middle childhood; 2) determine the multiple predictors of school competence including academic achievement and school adjustment of African American children in middle childhood within an ecological model of child development; and 3) identify the extent to which children's social knowledge and behavior, language, peer adjustment, and the match between Afrocultural beliefs and practices at home and school mediate the relationships between child, family, school, and neighborhood factors and school competence.  

These objectives are important to study for African American children, many of whom are at risk for school failure. The study follows a group of 73 African American children, primarily from low-income families, whose development, family, school, and neighborhood environments have been prospectively documented since infancy through funding from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau. The project broadens a current study by following children from third through fifth grade (a time when children's trajectories for school success become well established), and examining the role of race, culture, and peer relations in children's school competence.

Child measures assess children's language (e.g., African American Vernacular English), coping skills (e.g., race specific coping strategies), Afrocultural beliefs and practices (e.g., movement expression), social behavior (e.g., cooperation), peer adjustment (e.g., friendship), and school competence (e.g., achievement in reading). Family measures examine family characteristics (e.g., maternal education), Afrocultural beliefs and practices (e.g., communalism), and parenting beliefs (e.g., parental perceptions of discrimination). School measures assess factors such as classroom quality, Afrocultural beliefs and practices, teachers' perceptions of relationships with students, and classroom demographics. Neighborhood measures include factors such as parents' perceptions of the neighborhood and demographic characteristics of the neighborhood. Growth curve methods are used to quantify patterns of change over time in the development of children's language, social, and academic skills to determine what child, family, school, and neighborhood factors affect children's school competence, and how children's language skills, social knowledge, Afrocultural beliefs and practices, social behavior, coping strategies, and peer adjustment mediate these relationships. Study findings should have important implications for the sociocultural factors that affect the school success of African American children.


Funding Agency:  

Maternal and Child Health Bureau

Funding Period:  

08/01/1999 to 12/31/2006

Award Amount: