Kindergarten readiness: Are shy kids at an academic disadvantage?

August 28, 2012

Parents of young children hope for a successful kindergarten experience that will set their youngsters on the right path of their educational journey. Some worry about their kids not adapting to the school environment, particularly when the children are talkative and overactive. Yet, a new study by the University of Miami (UM) shows that overly shy preschool children are at greater academic risk than their chatty and boisterous peers.

The study is one of the first to follow the social and of throughout the preschool year. The report shows that children displaying shy and withdrawn behavior early in the preschool year started out with the lowest and showed the slowest gains in academic learning skills across the year. The findings are published online, in advance of print, by the Journal of School Psychology.

"Everybody wants their children to be ready for kindergarten, to know their ABCs and to be able to count, but they sometimes don't understand that having social-emotional readiness is equally important," says Rebecca J. Bulotsky-Shearer, assistant professor of psychology at UM College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and principal investigator of the study.

Behavioral problems in the classroom arise when there is a gap between the child's developmental skills and the expectations of the , according to the study. The findings suggest that children who are shy in the classroom have trouble engaging and learning.

" who are very introverted tend to 'disappear within the classroom,'" says Elizabeth R. Bell, in , at UM and co-author of the study. "It appears that while these children are not causing problems in the school, they are also not engaging in classroom activities and interactions, where almost all learning occurs during this age."

The results also raise the possibility that children who are loud and disruptive may be more likely to get the teacher's attention and benefit from specific educational strategies. "There are many classroom-based interventions for children that are disruptive and acting out in the classroom," says Bulotsky-Shearer. "I think the children who show an extreme amount of shyness and are withdrawn are most at risk of getting missed."

The researcher hopes the new findings encourage the development of appropriate classroom interventions tailored to the needs of different children, as well as appropriate training and professional development for teachers, to help them identify children who need help in specific areas. "This is especially important within early childhood programs such as Head Start, serving a diverse population of low-income children and families," says Bulotsky-Shearer.

The study analyzes information from 4, 417 prekindergarten children in the Head Start Program, ages 3 to 5, from a diverse population, living in a large urban district of the northeast. Six profile types were used to describe the preschoolers: 1.Well adjusted; 2. Adjusted with mild disengagement; 3.Moderately socially and academically disengaged; 4. Disruptive with peers; 5.Extremely socially and academically disruptive; 6.Extremely socially and academically disengaged.

The teachers assessed the emotional and behavioral characteristics, as well as the academic progress of each child, at three points in time during the preschool year. The findings show that older kids and girls tended to be better adjusted to the class, exhibited less behavioral problems, and had higher levels of social literacy, language and math skills.

Explore further: Preschoolers' language skills improve more when they're placed with more-skilled peers

More information: The study is titled "Latent Profiles of Preschool Behavior within Learning, Peer, and Teacher Contexts: Identifying Subgroups of Children at Academic Risks across the Preschool Year."

Related Stories

Preschoolers' language skills improve more when they're placed with more-skilled peers

October 26, 2011
Preschool children with relatively poor language skills improve more if they are placed in classrooms with high-achieving students, a new study found.

Lifelong payoff for attentive kindergarten kids

January 30, 2012
Attentiveness in kindergarten accurately predicts the development of "work-oriented" skills in school children, according to a new study published by Dr. Linda Pagani, a professor and researcher at the University of Montreal ...

Preschool-age kids in different countries improve academically using self-regulation game

July 18, 2011
Children who regularly participated in a Simon Says-type game designed to improve self-regulation – called the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task – may have better math and early literacy scores.

Preschool children who can pay attention more likely to finish college

August 6, 2012
Young children who are able to pay attention and persist on a task have a 50 percent greater chance of completing college, according to a new study at Oregon State University.

Recommended for you

Researchers find common psychological traits in group of Italians aged 90 to 101

December 12, 2017
In remote Italian villages nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and mountains lives a group of several hundred citizens over the age of 90. Researchers at the University of Rome La Sapienza and University of California San ...

Your mood depends on the food you eat, and what you should eat changes as you get older

December 11, 2017
Diet and dietary practices differentially affect mental health in young adults versus older adults, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

New therapy can help schizophrenia sufferers re-engage socially

December 11, 2017
A new therapy aimed at helping young people suffering from schizophrenia to reconnect and engage with the world around them has had promising results, according to a new University of Sussex-led study.

Twitter can reveal our shared mood

December 11, 2017
In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the University of Bristol have analysed mood indicators in text from 800 million anonymous messages posted on Twitter. These tweets were found to reflect strong patterns ...

Certain books can increase infant learning during shared reading, study shows

December 11, 2017
Parents and pediatricians know that reading to infants is a good thing, but new research shows reading books that clearly name and label people and objects is even better.

Many different types of anxiety and depression exist, new study finds

December 8, 2017
Five new categories of mental illness that cut across the current more broad diagnoses of anxiety and depression have been identified by researchers in a Stanford-led study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.