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Publication Date



UM campus only

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Rebecca J. Bulotsky-Shearer

Second Committee Member

Daryl B. Greenfield

Third Committee Member

Marygrace Yale

Fourth Committee Member

Heather Henderson

Fifth Committee Member

Maria Llabre

Sixth Committee Member

Batya Elbaum


Problem behaviors early in the preschool year have been negatively linked to a variety of school readiness outcomes, including language, literacy and mathematics, both at the end of preschool and later on as children transition to elementary school. In order to inform preschool intervention efforts, the current study extends this research by examining the unique influence of internalizing and externalizing behaviors on children's growth in academic skills throughout the preschool year. Additionally, in order to identify mechanisms that may explain the associations between problem behaviors and academic growth, the potential mediating role of specific learning behaviors-competence motivation, attention/persistence and attitude toward learning-were examined. A sample of 275 four-year-old children enrolled in a large, urban Head Start program in the Southeast United States participated in the study. Teachers completed ecologically valid measures of children-s problem behaviors at the beginning of the year and children's learning behaviors mid-year. Data on children's academic achievement were collected at three time points (fall, winter and spring) by independent direct assessors. A series of latent growth models were conducted to examine children's growth in listening comprehension, alphabet knowledge, vocabulary, and mathematics across the preschool year. Results indicated that children made significant progress in all academic domains. Internalizing and externalizing behaviors were negatively associated with baseline academic scores, yet positively associated with rates of growth in some academic domains over time. Furthermore, children's attention skills and persistence were found to be important mediators of growth in alphabet knowledge and mathematics. Implications for early childhood research and practice are discussed.


Problem Behaviors; Preschool Children; At Risk; Early Mathematics; Early Literacy; Learning Behaviors