Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Rebecca Shearer

Second Committee Member

Daryl Greenfield

Third Committee Member

Batya Elbaum


Internalizing behavior in preschool children from low-income households is consistently negatively associated with academic outcomes, specifically in language/literacy and mathematics. To understand these associations, it is important to identify different mechanisms that might explain the relationship between internalizing behavior and academic outcomes. Classroom engagement is a domain-general skill that may explain this relationship. The purpose of the current study was to examine whether classroom engagement across different contexts--including peers, teachers, and tasks--mediated the relationship between internalizing behavior at the beginning of the year and language/literacy and mathematics skills at the end of the year. Structural equation modeling was used to examine this relationship in a sample of 655 Head Start preschoolers across 71 classrooms. Internalizing behavior was negatively associated with the three dimensions of classroom engagement, and language/literacy and mathematics outcomes. Additionally, classroom engagement with tasks mediated the relationship between internalizing behavior and language/literacy and mathematics skills. Findings demonstrated that engagement with tasks serves as a mechanism explaining the relationship between internalizing behavior and academic outcomes. These findings emphasize the importance of children displaying internalizing behavior to be engaged with tasks in the classroom in order to improve their academic readiness skills.


Internalizing Behavior; School Readiness Skills; Classroom Engagement; Head Start