Family and School Contexts as Predictors of Early Childhood Latino Development  (2015)

Researcher(s):

Project Sponsor(s)

  • National Institutes of Health

Project Categories

Purpose: To test a model of early childhood development that incorporates developmental and cultural concepts to examine the family context, the school context, and the intersection of the two as predictors of the academic and behavioral functioning of Latino children. Funded by the National Institute on Child Health and Development (NICHD, R01 HD066122), this study is being conducted in public schools in New York City under the direction of PI Esther Calzada, Ph.D. (UT Austin) and PI Laurie Miller Brotman, Ph.D., Professor in the Dept. of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine.

It has become increasingly clear that the development of Latino children, as an ethnic minority population, cannot be fully understood without proper consideration for the unique ecological contexts within which they function. Unfortunately, empirical studies of cultural variables of theoretical importance for Latino child development have been limited. Family and school contextual factors arguably represent the most proximal predictors of young children’s development, and the study of families in schools (i.e., the intersection of family and school) has great potential to elucidate the ways in which contextual factors interact to influence early development.

This study has three primary aims with Mexican (MA) and Dominican (DR) children: 1) To examine the family and school contexts of children in relation to behavior problems and school readiness during the first year of formal schooling (i.e., at school entry); 2) To examine the family and school contexts of children at school entry as predictors of later developmental competencies; 3) To examine change in how families interact in schools as predictors of developmental competencies. Cultural family characteristics will be examined, in an exploratory fashion, as moderators of the link between school contexts and developmental competencies.

Design: this theoretically guided and culturally informed study will test an integrative model through a longitudinal study with 900 MA and DR families during early childhood, as children embark on their formal educational experience as Pre- Kindergarten and Kindergarten students in 30 large, urban public elementary schools. The study will use a multi-informant, multi-method assessment approach to examine the family and school contexts of children in relation to behavior problems and school readiness at school entry and over time (i.e., 3 years). Significance: The high prevalence of academic failure and behavior problems experienced by Latinos has been well documented.

This study has great potential to enhance our understanding of the developmental pathways to important educational and mental health outcomes among Latino children. Findings from the study will serve to inform future family and school intervention efforts for this vulnerable population. At the same time, the study will explore strengths of the Latino culture to identify protective processes that may mitigate the risk of academic and behavior problems among Latino children.