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Predicting child externalizing behavior ratings in Head Start: Investigating the impact of child and teacher influences


One of the primary goals of early education is to promote overall school readiness, especially for children most at risk for educational challenges. However, there is a persistent disparity in equitable access to high quality early learning environments. This is due in part to children being suspended or expelled for displaying challenging behaviors even though for many children, some of these behaviors may be developmentally appropriate. The effects of exclusionary discipline can have long-term implications for their overall emotional and social development. Racial and gender-based disparities in school discipline begin as early as preschool. Some of these disparities can stem from disproportionality in teachers’ perceptions of children's behaviors. The ways in which teachers perceive and subsequently respond to preschoolers’ behavior have significant implications for children's experience in the classroom and are an important link in understanding decision-making pathways related to preschool expulsion. The goal of the present study was to examine factors that might predict teacher perceptions (i.e., ratings) of child externalizing (hyperactive and aggressive) behaviors. This study analyzed secondary data from a nationally representative study of Head Start. Findings indicated there were differences in how teachers rated children's externalizing behaviors based on child's sex and race. Further, a teacher's field of study, beliefs about family engagement, and attitudes toward Developmentally Appropriate Practices significantly predicted their ratings of children's aggressive and hyperactive behaviors. Policy recommendations are discussed. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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