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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Examining underactive behaviors in a culturally-diverse, Head Start sample: A mixed methods study
by Owsianik, Marissa, Ph.D., New York University, 2012, 268; 3493864
Abstract (Summary)

Young, low-income children are at disproportionate risk for developing emotional and behavioral problems. Lutz and colleagues (2002) conceptualized the main behavioral difficulties in preschool for a Head Start population as: (1) overactive (aggressive behaviors, oppositional behaviors, and inattentive/hyperactive behaviors), and (2) underactive (reticent behaviors and withdrawn behaviors). Though overactive behaviors are typically easier to identify, low-income children engaging in underactive behaviors (e.g., waits for you to greet him/her first; lacks physical energy; needs encouragement to join in games) are often overlooked but particularly at-risk for developing behavioral, emotional, and academic difficulties when compared to their same age peers. Moreover, young, low-income children of immigrant families displaying underactive behaviors may be particularly vulnerable to poor school outcomes, experiencing a number of complicating risk factors.

A sequential explanatory mixed methods design was utilized to examine underactive behaviors in a culturally-diverse sample of Head Start children. Study 1 was designed to quantitatively examine the relationships between underactive behaviors and school readiness among this sample of primarily dual language learners (DLLs) from Latino and Polish immigrant families. Findings suggested that underactive behaviors were significantly negatively related to school readiness outcomes. Shy/socially reticent behaviors were moderately negatively associated with all dimensions of classroom learning at the end of the year. Multilevel analyses (MLM) revealed a significant negative relationship between shy/socially reticent behaviors and scores on a direct assessment of school readiness. Significant rater effects that emerged when using the Child Observation Record (COR) are discussed. In Study 2, to gain a more complex, nuanced understanding of parents' views of underactive behaviors, interviews were conducted with parents of those preschoolers who had been identified by their teachers as exhibiting marked levels (at least one standard deviation above the mean) of underactive behaviors. Between- and within-group similarities and differences were explored. Results provide further evidence that underactive Head Start children from immigrant families: (1) have poorer school readiness outcomes than their Head Start peers, (2) must be identified as early as possible, and (3) demand the attention of early childhood programs and policy makers. Implications for early childhood programs, parents, researchers, and school psychologists are discussed.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McWayne, Christine M.
Commitee: Astuto, Jennifer, Doucet, Fabienne
School: New York University
Department: Applied Psychology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-B 73/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Behavioral psychology
Keywords: Behavioral problems, Dual language learners, Early childhood, Head start, Mixed methods, School readiness
Publication Number: 3493864
ISBN: 978-1-267-14878-0
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