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i IF SCHOOL IS NOT FOR ME, THEN IT IS AGAINST ME: SEL F-REGULATION, PERCEIVED COGNITIVE COMPETENCE AND PERCEIVED SOCIAL ACCEPTANCE IN THE PRESCHOOL CHILD BY HEATHER HARMON A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Psychology New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Michelle Barton Sarasota, Florida May 2013
ii Acknowledgements There are many people that I would like to thank f or their invaluable mentoring, support and encouragement during the time that I wa s writing this thesis. I would especially like to thank my thesis sponsor, Michell e Barton, for her guidance and support (not to mention incredible organization skills!) th rough all stages of my academic growth. To the other members of my faculty committee, Heidi Harley and Steven Graham, thank you for providing me with an encouraging academic e nvironment to foster my interests in my thesis topic. Thank you to Duff Cooper for not o nly introducing me to the world of statistical analysis, but for additionally helping me to organize my thesis data in a clear and manageable way. Thank you to Jessa Baker-Moss f or being my patient and wonderful peer-review partner, giving me constructive feedbac k during the refinement process. Outside of the New College community, I had the und ying support and patience of my husband, Buddy Spafford. Without his warm, homecook ed meals and incredible thesissoothing powers, I would have never made it this fa r. I would also like to thank the Early Learning Child Care Coalition of Sarasota for their cheerful eagerness in finding me VPK classrooms for recruiting participants. On that not e, I am also forever grateful to the children, their parents and the teachers that parti cipated in my study. Thank you to Dr. Lenore Behar and Dr. Susan Harter for providing me with their personally researched and developed measures for preschool children. I would like to thank my mother and father, Nancy and David Harmon for always providing the war mth that only a family can provide. Finally, I would like to thank my two clos est comrades, Juliana Montane and Dan Mnynarski for keeping me sane and providing fri endly banter when it felt like the deadlines were going to swallow me whole.
iii TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ii TABLE OF CONTENTS iii ABSTRACT iv INTRODUCTION Classroom Evidence of Individual Self-Regulatory A bilities 1 Executive Function Development in the Preschool Ch ild 5 Frontal Lobe Development in Early Childhood 5 Connecting the Neurological to the Behavioral 8 Self-Regulation, Exclusion and Abilities in the Cl assroom 10 Self-Regulation as a Positive Mediating Variable 10 Self-Regulation as a Negative Mediating Variable 13 Feelings of Exclusion as an Inhibitor of Self-Reg ulation 15 Summary 21 Self-Regulation in Relation to Self-Perceptions an d Academic Ability 21 The Current Study 29 METHOD 31 RESULTS 36 DISCUSSION 38 REFERENCES 42 TABLE 1 46 FIGURE 1 47 FIGURE 2 48
iv FIGURE 3 49 FIGURE 4 50 FIGURE 5 51 FIGURE 6 52 APPENDIX A 53 APPENDIX B 56
v IF SCHOOL IS NOT FOR ME, THEN IT IS AGAINST ME: SEL F-REGULATION, PERCEIVED COGNITIVE COMPETENCE AND PERCEIVED SOCIAL ACCEPTANCE IN THE PRESCHOOL CHILD Heather Harmon New College of Florida, 2013 ABSTRACT A sample of 13 preschoolers was interviewed on per sonal perceptions of cognitive competence and social acceptance, in order to explo re correlations between these perceptions and self-regulatory abilities of workin g memory and inhibitory control. These scores were obtained using the Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance Scale for Preschool and Kindergartners, the Knock-Tap task an d a delay of gratification task. A teacher of each childs preschool classroom also co mpleted the Preschool Behavior Questionnaire, which tallied problematic behaviors in the classroom. No significant correlations were found, however a nearly significa nt negative correlation was found between reported problem behaviors and delay of gra tification scores. A larger sample size of children under the same individual teacher could create larger effect sizes and contribute to a better understanding of self-percep tions, self-regulatory abilities and academic ability in preschool populations.
1 Clark spent most of his time in the principal's o ffice. If he wasn't in the principal's office, he was visiting other student's workstations touching their work, talking to them and making inappropriate jokes. O ften, one would hear the students or teachers loudly proclaim, Clark, STOP. On a particular school day, Clark had trouble sitting still in the reading circ le so the teacher asked me to take Clark outside so he could run around a while. As he climbed on a swing, he said quietly and calmly, I have too much energy for som e people. (Clark, personal communication, January 2012) Samson was easily distracted in the classroom and found it difficult to complete his assignments throughout the day. He wit nessed other children managing to socialize with their peers and complete their work, but he was often told to leave the other children alone and focus on his own work. He would often make violent gestures and threatening or rude comme nts towards the other children. One day, as Samson finished his assigned reading to me, he began flipping through the book and staring at it. After he said he's not a good reader, I asked him why. He told me that he is treated differ ently by his teachers and his classmates because he is the only one with brown sk in. (Samson, personal communication, January 2012) In the classroom setting, it is not uncommon for c hildren to be excluded based on how they look or how they behave. For Clark, his be havior patterns kept him from successful relationships with his peers and his tea chers. For Samson, he perceived his exclusion as a result of his skin color, but his be haviors were often the reason the others
2 gave for sending him away. These children are power ful examples of how individuals experiencing exclusion in early childhood can also experience its confusing effects on attempts to master the social norms of a classroom. Indicators of kindergarten readiness for children in preschool commonly include their abilities to follow the rules of the classroo m and cooperate with their peers -evaluations that transform developmental difference s into signals of success or failure. The social skills in these evaluations become parti cularly compelling after considering their lifelong persistence in the academic environm ent. For example, according to Trentacosta and Izards (2007) findings, teacher ra tings of attention and emotion regulation in kindergarten can consistently predict a childs first grade academic competence. In addition, Vitaro, Brendgen, Larose a nd Tremblay (2005) found that disruptive behaviors reported by kindergarten teach ers can predict dropping out of high school, more so than socioeconomic status (SES) and family factors. These evaluations become even more pressing in research done by DiBia se and Miller (2012), where it was implied that children may internalize teacher ratin gs to form their own perceptions of their cognitive competence. In recognition of long-term effects such as these, observational research of 401 child care centers has produced the following defin ition of a high quality classroom: a high quality classroom is one with a generally frie ndly and respectful buzz of conversation among the children, as well as having a teacher that is enthusiastic about each childs learning (Peisner-Feinberg et. al, 200 0). In a high quality classroom, if Clark was rated on his abilities to follow the rules and cooperate with his peers, it may be possible that the teacher would identify his inappr opriate behaviors and use available
3 resources to help Clark change his behavior and fos ter more positive relationships (Lambert, Bloom & Irvin 2012), thereby reducing or eliminating feelings of exclusion. However, Samson experienced exclusion based on prej udice, in addition to his behaviors. Are there common ecological relationships that can explain each childs experience of exclusion? Two areas of research point to the possibility tha t Clark and Samson experienced social and academic difficulties because of their l ack of self-regulatory abilities. The first area of research focuses on the development of exec utive function (EF) skills (Molfese et al. 2010). The second area of research has examined the effects of prejudice on these abilities (Johnson, Richeson & Finkel, 2011; Inzlic ht, McKay & Aronson, 2006). To provide a basic understanding of executive func tion, Dawson and Guare (2004) define EF in the following way: Executive skills allow us to organize our behavior over time and override immediate demands in favor of longer-term goals. Th rough the use of these skills we can plan and organize activities, sustain attent ion, and persist to complete a task. Executive skills enable us to manage our emot ions and monitor our thoughts in order to work more efficiently and effectively. Simply stated, these skills help us to regulate our behavior (p.1). Organizing activities, sustaining attention and pe rsisting to complete a task are all obvious components of successful classroom experien ces. For example, by sustaining attention long enough to complete a task in the cla ssroom, a child gives priority to longerterm goals (e.g., being a good student) over immedi ate demands (e.g., attaining gratification through playing with classmates). If a child has the ability to organize her or
4 his behavior, then this child has the ability to self-regulate according to a definition provided by Blair and Diamond (2008): Self-regulation refers to the primary volitional co gnitive and behavioral processes through which an individual maintains levels of emo tional, motivational, and cognitive arousal that are conducive to positive ad justment and adaptation, as reflected in positive social relationships, product ivity, achievement and a positive sense of self (p. 900). Samson and Clark were both experiencing fewer posi tive social relationships than their classmates. Both children even expressed a le ss positive sense of self, which may have left them in a poor position to be productive or maintain a satisfactory level of achievement. These hypothetical relationships raise the following question: what role does EF and self-regulation development have in a child's experience with her or his peers? In addition to this, how does an individual child's level of EF and self-regulation development interact with her or his feelings of ex clusion? In answering these questions, it may become appare nt that early childhood academic evaluations are overlooking a couple of ma jor influences on child behavior and indirectly contributing to the child's academic dif ficulties later on. The following literature review will examine to what extent a chi ld's EF skills have developed by the time she or he has been placed in the preschool cla ssroom at age four or five, which is the first academic experience for many children. After understanding at what level these skills have developed, a review of research concern ing a child's self-regulation abilities in the classroom will extend the understanding of EF t o interactions with peers in the classroom. Throughout both of these sections, measu res will be described that have been
5 previously used in identifying these skills in pres chool aged children. Finally, recent research that has found connections between EF, aca demic ability, self-regulatory abilities and self-perceptions will be discussed an d explored. This literature review will take a developmental approach, in order to fully em phasize these relationships and their role throughout the lifespan. The current study wil l attempt to provide further evidence for correlations among these variables and extend k nowledge into 4 and 5 year old populations. Executive Function Development in the Preschool Chi ld As previously mentioned, executive function skills are those which allow us to plan and organize activities, sustain attention and persist to complete tasks. The world of the adult has much evidence of these skills in thei r advanced form, where meetings, work schedules and the ability to wait patiently in a co ffee shop queue are common occurrences. However, a preschool child shows a ver y different level of development in these skills and still depends largely on adults to tell her or him where to be, when to be there and what is appropriate in the line for the w ater fountain. In order to understand what level of executive function development the pr eschool aged child has achieved, it is useful to consider the two dominant branches of exe cutive function research: neurological and behavioral. A glance at neurologic al studies will provide an abbreviated understanding of developmental progress in brain ne tworks. Then, a focus on behavioral research will provide a stronger bridge to the obse rvable classroom setting. Frontal lobe development in early childhood. It has been established that the frontal lobe is the neurological place of origin fo r many executive function skills, such as inhibition and working memory (Passler, Isaac & Hyn d 1985; Romine & Reynolds, 2004;
6 Welsh 2002). In 2005, Romine and Reynolds observed that past research had identified maturational trends in frontal lobe functioning and conducted a meta-analysis to provide a model of these existing trends. Their meta-analys is included any journal articles from the year of 1984 until the year of 2004 that contai ned the key words, executive function, frontal lobe function, development, and age. Furthermore, they only included those articles that contained raw data for different age groups, providing agerelated differences on measures of planning (e.g., NEPSY tower), inhibition of preservation (e.g., Wisconsin Card Sorting TestPer sverative Responses), measures of set maintenance (Wisconsin Card Sorting TestCatego ries Achieved) and measures of verbal and design fluency. Their meta-analysis foun d that the greatest period of development in frontal lobe functioning occurred be tween ages 5 and 8, followed by more gradual and steady growth until early adulthoo d. The authors of this article acknowledged that the measures used in these studie s should be considered carefully, as overlapping between neural networks and areas of th e brain is unavoidable. However, more recent research has elaborated even further on frontal brain activity in early childhood, providing a closer look at cognitive and emotional development during this time. In Wolfe and Bell's (2007) study of regulatory pro cesses associated with working memory, measures of temperament and frontal brain e lectrical activity were compared to behavioral measures of working memory in order to f ind possible correlations between the ages of 8 months and 4 years. At 8 months, re searchers took baseline readings of the brain's electrical activity by electroencephalo gram (EEG). Following the baseline recording, the child was given a working memory and inhibitory control (WMIC) task
7 while wearing the EEG cap. For the 8 month old, thi s task was simply to remember where to find a toy that was hidden by the experime nter (e.g., under one of two different colored tubs), in addition to not looking at previo usly rewarded hiding places. To discourage looking at previously rewarded hiding pl aces, the experimenter would sigh, look sad and say, Oh no. It's not there. To encou rage looking for the toy, correct eye movements to the tub containing the toy were reward ed by the experimenter smiling and praising the child with, Good job! You found it! After completing the task, the infant's baseline EEG recordings were compared to those of t he most cognitively demanding portions of the task. Twenty-seven of the original 50 participants returned to the lab at 4 years of age and another baseline recording was t aken. Immediately following the baseline recording, 2 age appropriate WMIC tasks we re administered while the child wore the EEG cap. For the 4 year old child, these tasks were the day-night Stroop-like task and the conceptually similar yes-no task. In e ach of these tasks, the child is required to remember two rules and inhibit their immediate r eaction to the game stimulus (e.g., when the child is shown an image of a yellow moon o n a black card, she or he is to say day). Researchers also collected completed behavi or questionnaires from the parents before each lab visit, to attain a general temperam ent recording for each child. Finally, the child was given the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III (PPVT-III) at age 4 to determine verbal comprehension and receptive vocabu lary. The results showed that frontal lobe activity reco rded in the EEG and temperament were significantly correlated with WMIC performance, such that these variables could be used to predict and categorize t he 8 month old infant as a high WMIC performer or a low WMIC performer. These two variab les accounted for 39 percent of the
8 variance in infant WMIC scores and accounted for 65 percent of variance in early childhood WMIC scores, when combined with the addit ional measure of language performance. This study also found that infant temp erament was a predictor of early childhood language performance and early childhood WMIC. Overall, this study gave evidence for significant correlations between front al lobe activity and executive functioning in children as young as 8 months. More importantly, it showed that children of the same age were found to perform differently o n the WMIC tasks and that temperament was found to be a mediating variable on WMIC tasks. Previous research has shown that these differences may be due to genetics combined with early experiences, when the child's executive functions are developing and adapting to novel stimuli in her or his environment (as cited in Posner & Rothbart, 2010; Posner, Rothbart, Sheese & Voelker, 2012). Considering that primary early chil dhood environments include the home and the classroom, these very factors that give eac h child different opportunities for development are the ones that should be considered in evaluating a childs ability to succeed. Ideally, a low-cost measure for evaluating an individual child's EF skills would be available to teachers and allow them to provide necessary support. The research of Molfese et al. (2010) provided an investigation of one such measure. Connecting the neurological to the behavioral. The research of Molfese et al. (2010) has provided a bridge from neurological rese arch to the early childhood classroom, by investigating a behavioral measure th at could simultaneously represent neurological activity. One of the main goals of thi s study was to provide a powerful yet affordable measure for teachers to utilize in the c lassroom for identifying working memory and inhibitory control performance in childr en. Their sample included 74
9 children (37 female) who were recruited from a larg er study of sleep habits and cognitive processing. The composition of the sample was 6 thr ough 8 year olds, 65% Caucasian, 30% African American and 5% other racial/ethnic gro ups. All participants were considered to be developing normally. The children completed two neuropsychological assessment tasks of EF (i.e., tests of working mem ory and inhibitory control). The first of the tasks was a two phase Knock-Tap subtest, in which children were told in the first phase to simply do the opposite of what the examine r did (e.g., if the examiner tapped on the table, then the child knocked on the table). In the second phase of this task, the child was required to remember 3 ways of responding (e.g. if the examiner knocked, the child used the side fist to thump on the table). The seco nd task was the computerized Directional Stroop Task (DST), which had three cond itions (congruent, incongruent and mixed) to test the child's abilities to correctly i dentify placement of patterned circles, according to rules given (e.g., press the button on the same side as the dot appears). During this task, the children wore electrode nets on the scalp to measure brain activity (i.e., an Event-Related Potential [ERP] reading) fo r later comparison to the Knock-Tap subtest. Following testing, each child's performance on the Knock-Tap Task was used to categorize the child as a low or high performer Then, these categories were compared to the ERP as recorded during the DST. The researchers first found that the previously determined Knock-Tap Task category for e ach child corresponded to her or his performance on the DST, where children who performe d poorly on the Knock-Test task also performed poorly on the more demanding conditi ons of the DST. This led the researchers to determine that the Knock-Test task c ould be used as a low-cost method for
10 identifying children with low EF skills. The second analysis found that ERP readings correlated with performance on both tasks, such tha t the children who performed better on the Knock-Tap task and the DST had ERP readings that showed difference in brain functioning for congruent versus incongruent (respe ctively, left brain activity versus right brain activity) conditions, and children who perfor med poorly on both tasks showed no difference in brain functioning. These differences in ERP activity suggest that greater EF skills are also correlated with increased developme nt of brain networks. Even though age was not a measured variable in the design, reliabil ity amongst the assessments used here provided evidence that there are highly dependable measures for this age range that classroom teachers can utilize to identify children with low EF skills. The researchers concluded that these findings provide ample reasoni ng for identifying children that may need additional assistance in developing EF skills, particularly because it has been shown that children can benefit from training of these sk ills (Rueda, Rothbart, McCandliss, Saccamanno & Posner, 2005, as cited in Posner & Rot hbart, 2010). Furthermore, upon identifying levels of EF development through classr oom behaviors, the individual abilities of children to interact with peers (inclu ding possible exclusion) gain a new meaning. Self-Regulation, Exclusion and Abilities in the Cla ssroom With a developmental understanding of EF skills, i t is now possible to consider more complex interactions between the child and oth er people where self-regulation abilities can act as a positive mediating variable in the classroom setting and be negatively influenced by the way the child is treat ed by others. Self-regulation as a positive mediating variable. A two-part study conducted by
11 Evans and Rosenbaum (2008) produced evidence of the powerful influence of developed self-regulation skills on a child's ability to succ eed. Inspired by a wide incomeachievement gap and the seemingly narrow nature of cognitive remediation outlined in the No Child Left Behind Act, this study took on th e task of aligning developmental progress with academic achievement. Specifically, t his study investigated a hypothesized pathway, where Income affects Self-Regulation which in turn, affects Academic Achievement and Self-Regulation may act as an influ ential mediator in the incomeachievement gap. The first part of the study examined a sample of 9 7 children from rural, upstate New York, who were evaluated once at 9 years of age (i.e., Wave 1) and once at 13 years of age (i.e., Wave 2). At Wave 1, children were giv en a delay of gratification task, where they were required to wait up to 7 minutes for a pr eferred award or voluntarily truncate their waiting time and receive a less desirable rew ard. Also within Wave 1, researchers collected demographic information regarding family income, household composition (e.g., mother's domestic partnership status), ethni city (e.g., white or non-white) and parental education (e.g., number of years in school ). At Wave 2, the researchers obtained the most recent grades of the participating childre n, in order to incorporate the child's documented progress in school. Through a series of multiple regression equations, the results showed that after accounting for maternal e ducation, single-parent status and child gender or ethnicity, income in elementary school pr edicted grades in middle school. However, after including self-regulatory behavior ( i.e., performance on the delay of gratification task) as a mediating variable, income was nonsignificant in predicting grades in relation to the previous statististical controls of demographics (e.g., maternal education
12 etc.). In building on the correlational nature of the fir st part, the second part of their study was a secondary analysis of the National Inst itute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Early Child Care data seta, whi ch included 774 children that were recruited shortly after birth from 10 distinct geographic areas of the United States. Data included scores on the word and applied proble m subscales of the WoodcockJohnson Psychoeducational Battery at grade 5, score s on the Mental Development Index (e.g., sensory-perceptual skills, memory and learni ng) of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development at 15 months of age and scores on the s ame delay of gratification task as the rural upstate New York sample. In addition to t hese measures, data were available on maternal years of school, income-to-needs ratio, ma ternal IQ, gender, parental status and ethnicity. In a series of regression equations simi lar to the upstate New York sample, the researchers found support for their hypothesis that self-regulatory abilities can act as a mediating variable on income effects. After statist ically controlling for child gender and ethnicity, as well as maternal education and partne r status, income-to-needs ratio from 24 months of age through Grade 3 was positively correl ated to cognitive development. In support of their findings in part 1 of this study, the longitudinal effect of income on cognitive development was reduced after the delay o f gratification variable was accounted for. In both parts of this study, it was found that sel f-regulatory abilities were capable of overpowering the effects of family income on aca demic achievement. Combined with the previous notion that self-regulatory abilties c an be trained (Rueda, Rothbart, McCandliss, Saccamanno & Posner, 2005, as cited in Posner & Rothbart, 2010), these
13 findings become especially relevant to the classroo m environment and the children within it. However, to properly consider classroom opportu nities for self-regulatory development, it is crucial to consider the conseque nces of a lack of this development as well as factors that can reduce these abilities. Self-regulation as a negative mediating variable. Beginning with a sample of 122 eighteen-month-old boys who were recruited from the Pittsburgh Mother and Child Project (PMCP), Trentacosta and Shaw's (2009) longi tudinal study investigated possible relationships between emotional self-regulation, pe er rejection and antisocial behavior. The aim of their research was to elaborate on previ ous findings that found peer rejection as a significant risk factor for antisocial behavio r later in life, in addition to exploring whether emotional self-regulation strategies predic ted peer rejection. As the authors noted, it is critical to examine self-regulation in the preschool period because children who are unable to master adaptive strategies for emotional self-r egulation during the preschool period demonstrate numerous problematic o utcomes, including impaired social competence and externalizing problems (e.g., Denham et al., 2003; Gilliom et al. 2002) (Trentacosta & Shaw, 2009, p.357). The PMCP allowed researchers to compile data from regular laboratory and home visits, as well as from a naturalistic summer camp study. At age 3 the boys were assessed on childhood externalizing problems and em otional self-regulation strategies. To measure for externalizing problems and therefore co ntrol for early behavior problems, the mothers of participating boys filled out the Child Behavior Checklist on aggressive and destructive behaviors such as disobedient or hit s others. Evaluations of each boy's self-regulation strategies were pulled from video r ecordings of a delay of gratification
14 task, where each boy was asked to wait 3 minutes fo r a favorite cookie while his mother filled out assessments. The video obtained for each boy was coded for the presence of five self-regulation strategies: active distraction passive waiting, information gathering, physical comfort seeking and task focus. Of particu lar interest to this study were active distraction (i.e., the ability to focus attention o n something other than the desirable cookie) and task focus (i.e., waiting for the cooki e which correlates with increased anger and frustration). When the boys were aged anywhere from 8 to 10-year s-old, the boys experienced the summer camp study. During this time, the resear chers were able to collect naturalistic data by way of sociometric nominations. The boys we re placed into groups of 10-12, where no more than two to three boys with elevated externalizing problems were placed in each group. The nomination process was carried o ut by providing each boy with a sheet of pictures and names of the boys in their gr oup and asking each boy to name three group members who they liked the most and three gro up members who they liked the least. These nominations were then used to calculat e a standardized social preference score for each boy and ultimately a mean sociometri c rating. The final measures obtained were at ages 11 and 12 where researchers obtained self, parent and teacher reports of antisocial beha vior. The measure used to obtained self reports was the Self-Reported Deliquency Measure, w hich asked questions such as, have you taken something from a store without paying for it? that are rated anywhere from 0 (never) to 2 (more often than once or twice). Paren t reports were obtained using the Child Behavior Checklist and teacher reports were obtaine d via the Teacher Report Form, both measures including behaviors such as lying or chea ting to be rated anywhere from 0
15 (not true) to 2 (very true or often true). Using structural equation models, researchers foun d significant relationships between self-regulation strategies, peer rejection and antisocial behavior. Their model suggested that less use of active distraction at ag e 3 predicted greater peer rejection in middle childhood. Additionally, there was evidence that peer rejection in middle childhood led to increased antisocial behavior in e arly adolescence. The researchers concluded that while the use of active distraction in early childhood was not directly correlated with antisocial behavior later on, the b ridge between these variables was still apparent through peer rejection in middle childhood Still more evidence for this empirical bridge between self-regulation and peer r ejection can be found in studies of college-aged students, where feelings of exclusion led to diminishing self-regulatory strength. Feelings of exclusion as an inhibitor of self-regul ation. In a study that was composed of six experiments, Baumeister, DeWall, Ci arocco, and Twenge (2005) found that college-aged individuals primed to feel exclud ed were likely to experience decreased self-regulation abilities. In the first experiment, participants were randomly assigned to one of three experimental groups: future belongingn ess, misfortune control or future alone. After completing a demographics questionnair e and the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ), participants were told their r esults and a false notion about their extraversion score according to their experimental group. Those in the future belongingness group were told something positive ab out their extraversion score (e.g., Being an introvert can be a good thing for relatio nships) and then told that their personality description showed promise of future re lationships being plentiful and
16 rewarding. Those in the misfortune control group we re simply told that they score high on a scale that is correlated with being accident p rone later in life, and then told that their personality description showed that they were generally accident prone. Those in the future alone group were told that their extraversio n score would somehow make their future relationships difficult (e.g., there's been some research that has shown that people who score high on extraversion have trouble keeping their relationships stable later in life) and that their personality description made them likely to experience short-lived relationships, that would likely leave them more an d more alone as time wore on. After rating their mood after this manipulation, particip ants were then individually seated at a table with a vinegar based health drink and told th ey would be paid a nickel for each ounce they drank. Most of the participants found th e drink to be unpleasant in a postdrink questionnaire and only one participant had su spicions about the nature of the study. The final results from this study found that those participants in the future alone group drank significantly less than those in the ot her two groups. These findings led the researchers to conclude that those who were primed to feel socially excluded had experienced a drop in self-regulatory ability (i.e. the willingness to drink a health beverage that did not taste good). The five experim ents that followed carried out similar exclusion manipulations and compared each condition to performance on varying tasks (e.g., eating cookies and persisting to finish a fr ustrating puzzle). In all six experiments, the researchers found that randomly assigned exclus ion was correlated with poor performance on measured self regulatory abilities, including poor performance on attention regulation in a dichotomous listening tas k. Johnson, Richeson and Finkel's (2010) research too k findings such as Baumeister
17 et al. (2005) and elaborated on them through anothe r aspect of social exclusion that taps into an individual's personal perceptions of the se lf social identity threat. Social identity threat posits that Cues from the environment, such as numerical under representation, can signal to an individual that one of his or her soci al identities may be devalued in that environment ( ) [which] instigates cognitive p rocesses (e.g., vigilance) and affective responses (e.g., anxious arousal; Murphy et al. 2007) that undermine performance on tasks that are relevent in the conte xt (Johnson et al., 2010, p. 839). In considering this theoretical approach, the rese archers examined a group of relatively lower SES students in an elite universit y setting. The first of their four studies measured a sample of 474 undergraduates at Northwes tern University to determine if there were indeed socioeconomic sensitivities to di screpancies between themselves and peers. At this time, the researchers also took meas ures of the student's academic concerns (e.g., To what extent do you fit in academically a t Northwestern?) and of the student's self-regulation, through the perceived Self-Efficac y for Self Regulated Learning Scale (e.g., How well can you set and honor your priorit ies?). The results suggested that as family income went down, students were more sensiti ve to income discrepancies and less likely to feel that they fit in at the university. In their second study, researchers elaborated on t he academic concerns by having higher and lower SES students discuss a recent acad emic success with an interviewer. After each participant discussed their recent acade mic success for 5 minutes, she or he was told that the next task was a taste test. The t aste test was actually a measure of how
18 much candy the participant would eat after discussi ng a potentially stressful subject, which tested on the premise that self-regulation ab ilities can be depleted after a cognitively taxing interview. In this case, the stu dents experienced the cognitively taxing task of discussing how different they were from the ir more fortunate peers. Their results found that those of relatively lower SES ate more g rams of candy than their higher SES peers after discussing an academic success. When co nsidered with the results of the first study, this suggested that those experiencing sensi tivity to SES stigma were possibly experiencing self-regulation depletion after the si mple task of discussing their accomplishments in the academic setting. The resear chers acknowledged that the differences in performance may be attributed to chr onic SES based differences in EF ability, rather than the task of academic self-pres entation. For example, did those in the low SES group experience lowered EF ability because of discussing their academic ability or were they always experiencing lower EF a bility? In order to clarify these differences, the third study interviewed half of th e lower and higher SES groups on stigma-irrelevant topics (i.e. geography preference s) and the other half was interviewed on academics. The interview was such that those int erviewed on a stigma-irrelevant topic were told that graduates from top schools like Nort hwestern were found to have more options of where to live upon graduating, and then told to discuss where they would like to live. Those participants in the stigma-relevant condition were told that graduates of top schools like Northwestern tended to do well upon gr aduating, and then told to discuss their expectations for their future outcomes, and how Northwestern would influence these outcomes. Following the interview, participants completed a Stroop task to examine possible
19 depletion of self-regulatory abilities. This Stroop task involved the participant identifying the color of the text in a word as quickly as possi ble. The color was displayed in one of three ways: compatible where the script color matched the word presented (e.g., the word BLUE in blue print), incompatible where the script color was different from the word presented (e.g., the word BLUE in green print) and a control, where the script color was displayed in a row of x s. The stimuli would stay on the screen for as long as the participant needed, resulting in a response and a l atency score. Results from the third study showed that students from the relatively lower SES group who were interviewed on their success after N orthwestern performed significantly worse on the Stroop task than those in the other th ree conditions (i.e., low SES stigmairrelevant, high SES stigma-relevant and high SES s tigma-irrelevant). Even more significantly, there were no differences in Stroop task performance in the low and high SES participants that were interviewed on geographi c preferences. In a final test of the relationship between social identity threat and EF ability, researchers examined the strength of social compari son on both lower and higher SES participants performance on a Stroop task. This st udy began by telling all of the participants that, This research is especially imp ortant because a survey conducted by U.S. News and World Report indicates that which c ollege you go to now has more influence in determining your success after graduat ion. Following this, the experimental condition (i.e., upward or downward comparison) was given. If placed in the upward comparison group, the students were told that in th is U.S. News and World Report survey, graduates at Ivy League universities were more succ essful than other non-Ivy-League private schools such as Northwestern. If placed in the downward comparison group, the
20 students were told that graduates from elite privat e schools such as Northwestern were more successful than students from public or state universities such as the University of Illinois. Subsequently, the participants were told to discuss their expectations for their future outcomes, for research students at their com parison school (e.g., Ivy League or University of Illinois) to review and evaluate. A c ontrol group was also included, which was simply told that students from top schools like Northwestern tend to do well and were not told that someone would be evaluating thei r discussion of their expectations for their future outcomes. Following their interviews, participants were given the Stroop task. In this fourth study, Johnson et al. (2010) found a significant effect of stigma condition, where those in the lower and higher SES groups who were compared to Ivy League schools were almost equally depleted in the Stroop task (i.e., Stroop interference was high). Also, those in the downward comparison c ondition experienced less interference and performed better on the Stroop tas k than those in the upward comparison condition. Finally, the control condition (i.e., th ose students that were told that Northwestern students tend to do well and were not compared to any other groups) confirmed that the lower SES participants were stil l experiencing the stigma of being from a lower SES background, as lower SES students in the control group had interference scores that were nearly double those o f the higher SES participants. These findings gave evidence to suggest that leveling the playing field between valued and devalued social identities(i.e., through the use of upward comparisons that were equally as stigmatizing to both groups) may reduce the self -regulatory differences between them. Even without a pre and post-test of self-regulatory abilities, these studies provided a thorough exploration of the ecology surrounding EF. By measuring EF levels of ability in
21 different groups (e.g., socioeconomic status) at re alistic times of academic stress (e.g., talking about ones school successes), it becomes a pparent how academic performance may be hindered by perceptions of the self in relat ion to others. Summary. In the discussion of how self-regulatory abilities mediate the child's performance in the classroom setting, it became apparent that s trong self-regulatory abilities can overpower the effects of family income on academic achievement (Evans & Rosenbaum, 2008). It also became apparent that weak self-regul atory abilities in early childhood can predict peer rejection in middle childhood (Trentac osta & Shaw, 2009). However, as Johnson et al. (2010) and Baumeister et al. (2005) found in college-aged students, even the fully developed executive function skills of ad ults can be inhibited by feelings of social identity threat, a contributor to feelings o f exclusion. In following the research implications of Johnson et al. (2010) and Baumeiste r et al. (2005) back to earlier school environments, it remains to be seen how preschool c hildren perceive themselves in the context of a classroom setting and how these perceptions interact with the lower levels of self-regulation development in preschool aged child ren. Self-Regulation in Relation to Self-Perceptions and Academic Ability Considering the relationships between executive fu nction performance and social experiences that have been outlined by previous res earch, it becomes apparent that the child's perspective on her or his own academic abil ities and interpersonal interactions may play a significant role in influencing self-reg ulation. Beginning with the most basic correlation between feelings about school and acade mic success, this portion of the discussion will consider the child in terms of her or his individual perceptions.
22 It should come as no surprise that if a child feel s negatively about school, academic achievement may be more difficult for many reasons. For example, it's easy to speculate that if the child does not feel that she or he is good at completing class tasks, then these thoughts may trigger disengagement from future tasks. A study completed by Valeski and Stipek (2001) examined these sorts of p erceptions in a population of lowincome kindergarten and first grade children, who w ere a part of a larger study of a family intervention program. A total of 225 kinderg artners and 127 first graders were distributed in 223 different classrooms and evaluat ed on several aspects of their placement in the classroom: direct assessments of p erformance in math and literacy, selfreported feelings about school, teacher assessments of their own relationships with the participating child, teacher evaluations of the chi ld's engagement in learning activities and classroom observations of the overall structure and functioning within the classroom. The direct assessment of math performance was base d on counting abilities, familiarity with numbers, strategies for solving wo rd problems and calculation abilities, which were then standardized and turned into an ave rage composite score in math ability. The direct assessment of literacy performance was b ased on abilities in reading and writing, comprehension and verbal ability, which we re then standardized and turned into an average composite score in literacy ability. Usi ng the Feelings About School (FAS) measure, the children were given a Likert Scale to describe their perceptions of their own competence, their teachers and their general attitu des towards school. The Likert Scale was age-appropriate, such that there were 5 bars of increasing size (e.g., the smallest bar being "not at all fun") used by the children to ans wer questions such as "How fun are the things you do in school?" Each question was read al oud by an experimenter. The teachers'
23 evaluations of the children were obtained via quest ionnaires that asked for the teacher's perceptions of the child's current performance in r eading and math (e.g., "Please rate the child's reading/math skills"), as well as the teach er's expectations of how the child would do in these fields in the future (e.g., "How well d o you expect the child to do next year in reading/math?". These items were scored on a 1 to 5 scale, where 1 indicated "well below children this age" and 5 indicated "well above chil dren this age." The second assessment of teacher perceptions was obtained through the Tea cher Rating Scale of School Adjustment (TRSSA), which examines the quality of t he child's engagement in schoolwork. This scale produced scores of the degre e to which students pursue academic challenges on their own, work independently in the classroom, how much the children accept the teacher's authority and how often they b ehave responsibly. The final measure completed by teachers was a personal evaluation of her or his own relationship with the child, based on conflict and closeness. An overall evaluation of the classroom was obtained by trained observers using the Early Child hood Classroom Observation Measure (ECCOM). This measure had items that depicted the c lassroom as rigidly structured versus items that depicted the classroom as chaotic The observers were to rate each descriptor item as 1 (low) to 5 (high). This measur e also taps the nature of instruction and the social climate and management of the classroom. A factor analysis revealed that perceived competen ce in math, perceived competence in literacy, children's feelings about t heir relationship with the teacher and children's general attitude toward school were foun d to have the highest loadings on the same factor. First graders' opinions of their own c ompetence of math and literacy abilities were positively correlated to attitudes toward scho ol, whereas only kindergartners'
24 opinions of their math abilities were positively co rrelated with their attitudes toward school. Additionally, kindergartners and first grad ers' perceptions of their relationship with their teachers were significantly positively c orrelated with their attitudes toward school. When feelings about school were compared to the overall evaluations of classroom environment, it was found that in highly structured, teacher-dominated classrooms where the children's time was spent focu sed on basic skills, the kindergartners had more negative feelings about school. This may i mply that in classrooms where children were not provided much room for emotional engagement, the children were less likely to express positive emotions about their lea rning in general. As for the academic evaluations themselves, there were no strong correl ations amongst kindergartners actual performance and their perceptions of their performa nce. However, in the first graders, poor performance did significantly predict negative perceptions of the self. These findings in kindergartners and first graders may ha ve important implications for preschoolers, who have not yet mastered emotional c ontrol and are often evaluated on their basic skills competence (e.g., knowing the da ys of the week; knowing basic vocabulary and numbers). For example, these finding s may not imply that the preschool child is aware of her or his achievement in the sam e sense that a first grade child is (i.e., possibly affecting self-perception), but they could mean that the child had experienced this correlation earlier in life and it did not see m to manifest until the child had a more mature sense of self. Without a clear understanding of the preschool child's sense of self as a moderator of academic performance, researchers have taken another approach: focusing on the child's feelings about school in re lation to her or his social functioning. In 2012, Arnold, Kupersmidt, Voegler-Lee and Marsh all examined possible
25 relationships between various measures of social fu nctioning and academic development in a sample of 467 low SES preschoolers. The childr en were measured on preliteracy (using the Woodcock-Johnson-III Tests of Achievemen t and Story and Print Concepts Test), language (using the Peabody Picture Vocabula ry Test-III), early mathematics (using the Applied Problems subscale of the Woodcock-Johns on-III Test), feelings about school (using a preschool adapted version of the Feelings About School measure), attention problems (using the attention problem subscale of t he IOWA Conners Teacher Rating Scale), aggression (also using the IOWA Conners Tea cher Rating Scale) and social skills (using the Social Skills Rating System). In their a nalysis, they found several significant correlations between social functioning and academi c development. One such relationship was a positive correlation between fee lings about school and academic performance, which extends the findings of Valeski and Stipek (2001) to the preschool population. A central finding was that the social s kills ratings were positively correlated with academic development. Even more central to the current discussion, ethnicity and feelings about school were found to be moderating v ariables for the relationship between social functioning and academic development. These were moderators in the sense that being African American reduced the positive correla tion between social functioning and academic development and feelings about school had the ability to strengthen the positive correlation between social functioning and academic development (moreso in the African American children). The authors believed that ethni city may become a moderating variable because of societal prejudice, and feeling s about school may be a moderating variable because of enhanced engagement (regardless of social prejudice) with the material.
26 The implications of this study, while correlationa l and not causal, can give valuable momentum to further research on possible f eelings of prejudice or exclusion in preschoolers. Additionally, these findings gain str ength within lifespan development research when considered alongside those findings o f Johnson et al. (2010) and Baumeister et al. (2005). As already discussed, chi ld variables such as socioeconomic status are hugely influential in a child's academic performance. However as seen in the research of Evans and Rosenbaum (2008) and Arnold e t al. (2012), factors such as selfregulation and feelings about school can moderate t he relationship between socioeconomic status and academic achievement. Also of great importance are the findings of Arnold et al. (2012) that imply that si mply by increasing positive feelings about school, the effects of attention problems, ag gression and social skills all of which are commonly associated with SES may be lessened. However, this relationship may be clarified by considering these social skills in ter ms of executive function growth differences, as well as their relationship to the c hild's perceived academic and social success. Hughes and Ensor (2011) documented one suc h study. Specifically highlighting the developmental growth in EF across the ages of 4 to 6 year olds, Hughes and Ensor (2011) used several mea sures of EF performance and compared these measures to teacher-rated problem be haviors and the child's own perceptions of social and academic success. Researc hers obtained a sample of 191 children from schools serving primarily low income areas, who were visited once at 4 years of age and once at 6 years of age. At each vi sit, the child completed the British Picture Vocabulary Scale, two subscales of Harter a nd Pike's Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance scale (PSPCSA) (i .e., perceptions of academic
27 competence and perceptions of social acceptance), a nd three EF tasks. In addition to direct child assessments, the child's teacher compl eted the Strengths and Difficulties questionnaire for each child, which included subsca les to measure Emotional symptoms, Hyperactivity, Conduct Problems and Peer Problems. The British Picture Vocabulary Scale was simply us ed to obtain a verbal mental age for each child. Harter and Pike's PSPCSA used s ets of two pictures for the child to elaborate on personal viewpoints. For example, in t he subscale of perceived competence, the child was shown two pictures of children (of th eir own sex) a table of letters: one picture had the child looking confused and the othe r had a picture of a child pointing directly at a letter. The researcher explained each scenario, This boy has trouble remembering the first letter of his name. This boy knows the first letter of his name. Which boy is more like (insert participating child' s name here)? The child was instructed to point to the one that more closely resembled him self. After pointing to one of the pictures, the child was then asked, Do you know th e letter of your name really well (as indicated by a large circle) or pretty well (as ind icated by a smaller circle)? They child was also instructed to point to his answer. This me thod obtained a measure similar to a Likert-scale. In addition to the 12 items within tw o subscales of the PSPCSA, the children completed 3 EF tasks: the inhibitory contr ol Day/Night Stroop task (similar to Wolfe and Bell's 2007 study), a working memory bead s task and a tower of London task to assess planning capabilities. The beads task had the children examine a photograph of 12 beads of three colors and four shapes and then t ell the experimenter which bead matched the bead segment that the experimenter had shown them, in addition to another portion of the task where the child had to replicat e the sequence of beads shown in a
28 photograph. The final task called Tower of London w as similar to the Tower of Hanoi task, in which the child was given a wooden plank w ith three, different sized pegs and three different colored sponge balls that slid onto the pegs. The task was such that the child was shown the goal state, through the use of two, three or four moves and told to copy the goal state through one move at a time. The researchers first established that EF scores s howed major changes across the ages of 4 to 6 years old. Further analysis found tw o very important trends. First, low gains in EF across this common transition to school time could be used to predict teacher ratings of externalizing and internalizing behavior s in the children and second, that high gains in EF across this common transition to school time could be used to predict children's self-perceived academic competence. The researchers concluded that the first finding, that low gains in EF could predict teacher ratings of behavior, could be explained in two different ways. One reason for this trend co uld be that if a child is experiencing rapid cognitive growth, they may be more positively engaged in the classroom and therefore show less externalizing or internalizing behaviors. A second reason given by the researchers was that if the child is accelerating i n the classroom, she or he may be experiencing high levels of self-esteem which could act as a mediator between EF gains and behavior. The second important trend found, tha t high gains in EF could predict children's perceived academic competence was such t hat children who experienced higher gains had more positive perceptions of their academic competence. This positive correlation was considered alongside similar findin gs in previous research and the authors concluded that by assisting children in acc elerating their EF gains, there could be countless benefits to their behaviors, future acade mic performance and concepts of the
29 self. The Current Study Executive function consists of many cognitive abil ities that allow us to manage behaviors and focus attention on tasks, so that we can accomplish both short and long term goals (Dawson &Guare, 2004). Included in these cognitive processes is selfregulation, which is the ability to maintain level s of emotional, motivational [and] cognitive arousal that are conducive to positive ad justment and adaptation, as reflected in positive social relationships, productivity, achiev ement and a positive sense of self (Blair & Diamond, 2008, p.900). Previous research h as found that executive function processes originate in the frontal lobe, which is r apidly developing in early childhood (Romine & Reynolds, 2005). During early childhood, children experience variou s situations in which it is academically crucial to exercise self-regulatory sk ills. For example, children in a preschool classroom setting must use these skills i n tasks such as waiting in line for recess and sharing classroom materials (Rose-Krasno r & Denham, 2009). Many studies have shown that self-regulatory abilities are linke d to academic success across the lifespan (Evans & Rosenbaum, 2008; Johnson et al., 2010; Hughes & Ensor, 2011). In addition, low gains in EF development during early childhood were found to predict internalizing and externalizing behaviors and high gains were found to predict selfperceived academic competence (Hughes & Ensor, 2011 ). The current study built on previous findings in pr eschool populations. As inspired by their examination of low SES adult students in a n elite university setting, the current study mimicked the priming in Johnson et al.s (201 1) research by interviewing 3 to 5-
30 year-old children on their perceptions of their own social acceptance and cognitive competence prior to any other testing. Following th is interview, the child was given the Knock-Tap task as a measure of working memory and i nhibitory control. Finally, the child experienced a delay of gratification task (Mi schel, Ebbesen & Zeiss, 1972) as another measure of inhibitory control. In addition to directly testing each child in the school setting, the childs preschool teacher fille d out the Preschool Behavior Questionnaire (PBQ) (Behar & Stringfield, 1974), wh ich provided a tally of problematic behaviors. The childs parent provided some demogra phic information. The childrens scores on these measures were then analyzed for cor relations, to investigate the following hypotheses: 1. Perceptions of cognitive competence were expected t o be positively correlated with Knock-Tap scores. This hypothesis tested the f indings of Hughes and Ensor (2011) that found EF development to predict p erceptions of cognitive competence. While their study used the Day/Night St roop test (i.e., a test of inhibitory control), the Beads task (i.e., a test o f working memory) and the tower of London task (i.e., a test of planning abil ity), the current study will use a delay of gratification task (i.e., a test of inhi bitory control) and the KnockTap task (i.e., a test of working memory and inhibi tory control). The current focused on the executive function abilities of work ing memory and inhibitory control because of their immediate relevance to cla ssroom evaluations (e.g., the ability to resist the impulse to hit a classmat e). 2. Perceptions of social acceptance were expected to b e positively correlated with Knock-Tap scores. This hypothesis tested the f indings of Trentacosta and
31 Shaw (2009), that found less use of active distract ion (i.e., a self-regulatory skill) at age 3 to predict greater peer rejection in middle childhood. In place of testing rejection in middle childhood, the curre nt study examined the possible feelings of rejection in preschool. 3. PBQ scores were predicted to be negatively correlat ed with Knock-Tap scores, such that more reported problem behaviors would ali gn with lower Knock-Tap scores. Continuing to build on the findings of Hugh es and Ensor (2011), this hypothesis tested their findings that low gains in EF development would predict reported externalizing and internalizing be haviors. 4. PBQ scores were predicted to be negatively correlat ed with delay of gratification times, such that more reported proble m behaviors would align with shorter delay of gratification times. This hyp othesis intended to extend the third hypothesis, with a different measure of E F skills. 5. Lower SES children with lower perceptions of social acceptance were predicted to have shorter delay of gratification ti mes. This hypothesis attempted to extend findings in college students, w here low SES peers experienced self-regulation depletion in a higher S ES university setting, after discussing their academic abilities (Johnson et. al 2011). Method Participants Participants were 15 preschool children recruited from Voluntary PreKindergarten programs. One of these children was omitted from th e study because he did not give his assent to participate, resulting in complete data f or 14 children. All of the children were
32 within 3 to 5 years of age and came from households of various incomes, as reported by the parent or guardian of the participating child/c hildren. The children were all rewarded with a book of their choice for participating. A second group of participants included the teache rs of those children who participated in the study. They were three teachers (2 female), one of which rated 5 children, another rated 9 children and the final te acher only rated one child. The teachers were all rewarded for their time with a $20 Starbuc ks gift card. Materials Family Demographic Survey. Upon consent to have their child participate, parents were asked to fill out demographic informat ion. Items the parents reported included gender, marital status, childs native lan guage, employment situation and number of children, as well as reporting household income based on categories adapted from Johnson et al. (2011): (a) less than $25,000; (b) $25,001-$40,000; (c) $40,001$70,000; (d) $70,001-$90,000; (e)$90,000 or more (S ee Appendix A). The Preschool Behavior Questionnaire (PBQ). The Preschool Behavior Questionnaire (Behar &Stringfield, 1974) was comple ted by the teachers to attain a measure of the child's behavior in the classroom se tting. This scale was chosen because of the variety of behaviors evaluated.1 The PBQ consisted of 30 items for the teacher to rate for the individual child (i.e., Blames others , Doesn't share toys). One behavior item concerning unusual sexual behaviors was omit ted due to a lack of resources to 1 The creator of the PBQ also performed reliability and validity checks on a sample of 496 children and concluded that the best reliability was found t hrough teachers that had been with the children for at least 6 weeks. Using a chi square test, the scale d ifferentiated between normal and disturbed groups b eyond the .0001 level of significance.
33 appropriately address this behavior problem. The te acher rated each behavior as Doesn't Apply, Applies Sometimes, or Certainly Applies (See Appendix A for entire questionnaire). After each behavior was rated, it w as subsequently scored as a 0 (Doesn't Apply), 1 (Applies Sometimes) or 2 (Certainly Appli es), creating three final subscale scores (hostile-aggressive, anxious and hyperactive -distractable) and an overall total of behaviors disturbed. For the purposes of this study only the total of behaviors disturbed was used in analysis. The minimum score for the tot al of behaviors disturbed was 0 and the highest possible score was 58. The Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and So cial Acceptance (PSPCSA) for Young Children. The Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance for Young Children was chosen in order to attain a measure of the childs perspective on social acceptance (Harter & Pike, 1983). This scale captures the childs perceptions of cognitive competence, physic al competence, social acceptance by mother and social acceptance by peers. For the curr ent study, only the measures of cognitive competence and social acceptance by peers were used. The child was given scenarios for a set of two pictures and then asked to respond with an indication of which picture she/he resembles the most (See Appendix B f or a sample item). After choosing one picture, the child was asked to say whether she or he resembles that picture a lot (by pointing to a large circle) or a little (by pointin g to a small circle). Each item is scored on a 4-point Likert scale, in which 4 points correspon d to the most socially accepted/most cognitively competent and 1 point to the least soci ally accepted/least cognitively competent. These points were then added to produce two subscale scores for perceptions of cognitive competence and perceptions of social a cceptance. These, in turn, were
34 divided by the number of items in each subscale to result in a final mean score for each subscale. A Delay of Gratification Task. A delay of gratification task (Mischel, Ebbesen & Zeiss, 1972) required the use of candy (i.e., the c hilds choice of either M&Ms or Skittles), a bell and a stopwatch. This measure was used to achieve a measure of inhibitory self-regulation. The child was shown two possible rewards: one piece of candy or two pieces of candy. After asking the child whic h of the options (i.e., Skittles or M&Ms) they preferred, the experimenter indicated th e following: I have to work on some paperwork for a few minutes If you wait until I come back, then you can have this one [pointing to the preferred number of candies]. If you dont want to wait, you can ring t he bell and I will come back any time you want. But if you ring the bell, then you c ant have this one [pointing to the preferred number of candies], but you can have that one [pointing to the less preferred number of candies]. After testing the childs comprehension of the rul es, the experimenter sat nearby and busied herself with papers. The pieces of candy were left on the table in order to keep the reward present. In the Mischel et al. (1972) ex periment, the criterion time was 15 minutes. For the sake of brevity, this time was tru ncated to 6 minutes due to Mischel et al.s (1972) findings in the No distraction condi tion, where the mean waiting time of the child was half of a minute. Since there will be no distraction present for the current study, it is predicted that the participants will n ot need the entire 6 minutes. The experimenter returned when the participant rang the bell or when 6 minutes was reached. In the case that the child rang the bell, the time was recorded at which they ended the
35 waiting period. The Knock-Tap Task. The Knock-Tap Test (Molfese et al., 2010) was administered by the experimenter to attain a measur e of the executive function skills associated with working memory and inhibitory contr ol. In Phase 1, the child was asked to respond by either knocking on the table with her or his knuckles or tap with the flat of their palm. Both of these responses are to be remem bered and used opposite to what the experimenter does (e.g., the experimenter knocks, t he child responds with a tap). In Phase 2, the child was asked to respond in one of three w ays: a knock, a bang with the side of the fist, or do nothing. These three responses were to be remembered and used accordingly (e.g., the child knocks when the experi menter uses side fist, the child uses side fist when the experimenter knocked, and the ch ild does nothing when the experimenter taps.) Each phase consisted of 15 tria ls and the number of correct responses in each phase were recorded. The children and teachers were given gifts in rewa rd for participation. The children were given age-appropriate, hard-cover boo ks. The teachers were given a $20 Starbucks gift card. Procedure Children were recruited through their Voluntary Pr eKindergarten classrooms, via a local early childhood learning coalition in Saras ota county. After obtaining consent and demographic information from parents, teachers were asked to complete PBQs on participating children. The experimenter acted as a teachers aide for at least 2 days in each classroom, immediately prior to experimentatio n, in order to familiarize children with the experimenters presence.
36 In the following days, children were individually taken to a quiet area of the classroom for testing. The child was seated at a ta ble with the experimenter to first complete the interview, then two phases (30 rounds) of the Knock-Tap Test, followed by the delay of gratification task. The child was then given a hard-cover book of choice and sent back to the classroom to continue the school d ay. Results Pearson product-moment correlations were used to t est all hypotheses. Perceptions of Cognitive Competence, Memory and Inh ibitory Control The first hypothesis tested previous findings that EF development could predict perceptions of cognitive competence (Hughes & Ensor 2011). In this case, the EF skills tested were working memory and inhibitory control, through the Knock-Tap Task in two phases. The first phase of the Knock-Tap Task had t he child remember two rules and the second phase had the child remember three rules, pu tting the child in a position to inhibit the immediate response of copying the experimenter. There was no significant correlation between perceptions of cognitive competence and Kno ck-Tap scores in phase 1 r (11) = .28422, p = .3466 (See Figure 1a) or between perceptions of c ognitive competence and Knock-Tap scores in phase 2 r (11) = .18093, p = .5542 (See Figure 1b). Further testing of this hypothesis examined correl ations between perceptions of cognitive competence and another measurement of inh ibitory control: the delay of gratification task. The delay of gratification task had the child wait 6 minutes for a preferred reward or voluntarily truncate the waitin g time for a lesser desired reward. There was no significant correlation found r (10) = .05629, p = .8621 (See Figure 2).
37 Perceptions of Social Acceptance, Memory and Inhibi tory Control The second hypothesis tested for correlations betw een possible feelings of rejection and EF development (Trentacosta & Shaw, 2 009), specifically by testing working memory and inhibitory control with the Knoc k-Tap Task. There was no significant correlation between perceptions of soci al acceptance and Knock-Tap scores in phase 1 (i.e., two rules) r (11) = -.05418, p = .8604 (See Figure 3a) or between perceptions of social acceptance and Knock-Tap scor es in phase 2 (i.e., three rules) r (11) = .31990, p = .2866 (See Figure 3b). Further testing of this hypothesis examined correl ations between perceptions of social acceptance and another measure of inhibitory control: the delay of gratification task. These variables were not found to be signific antly correlated r (10) = .02888, p = .9290 (See Figure 4). Reported Problem Behaviors with Memory and Inhibito ry Control The third hypothesis explored the findings of Hugh es and Ensor (2011) by looking for correlations between reported problem b ehaviors and scores on the KnockTap Task which tests working memory and inhibitory control. There was no significant correlation between Preschool Behavior Questionnair e (PBQ) scores and Knock Tap scores in phase 1 (i.e., two rules) r (11) = -.39397, p = .1829 (See Figure 5a) or between PBQ scores and Knock-Tap scores in phase 2 r (11) = -.32926, p =.2720 (See Figure 5b). Reported Problem Behaviors with Inhibitory Control In order to extend the third hypothesis, the fourt h hypothesis utilized the delay of gratification task as a secondary measure of execut ive function to test for correlations between problem behaviors and inhibitory control. T he scores from the delay of
38 gratification task represented the childs ability to wait for a reward. The child was given the option of waiting for 6 minutes to receive two pieces of candy or ring a bell at any point during the waiting period to receive one piec e of candy (i.e., the less desired reward). There was no significant correlation betwe en PBQ scores and delay of gratification times r (10) = .50559, p = .0936 (See Figure 6) but it was approaching significance. Low SES and Low Perceptions of Social Acceptance wi th Inhibitory Control The final hypothesis was an attempt to extend find ings from Johnson et. als (2011) study of college students, where lower SES s tudents in an elite university (i.e., higher SES) setting experienced self-regulation dep letion after discussing academic performance. This hypothesis was not tested, due to a lack of a significant correlation between socioeconomic status on delay of gratificat ion times r (8) = -.22527, p = .5315, as well as the small sample size of lower SES (i. e., 5 participants). Discussion The aim of the current study was to search for pre viously implied correlations (e.g., in adult and childrens studies) between chi ldrens perceptions of their own cognitive competence, perceptions of their own soci al acceptance, their working memory abilities and their inhibitory control. There was n o support for the first hypotheses, which expected significant positive correlations between perceived cognitive competence and Knock-Tap scores. The findings of testing the first hypothesis were contradictory to the findings of Hughes and Ensor (2011), where low gain s in EF development could predict perceptions of cognitive competence. The lack of ev idence to support this finding may have been due to each child being enrolled in a hig h quality classroom that was very
39 student oriented. The children in this sample were often encouraged to make their own decisions and experienced generally high autonomy i n their classroom activities. High autonomy and praise may have provided these childre n with the feelings of confidence necessary to appreciate their own level of cognitiv e competence, as shown in the mean score of 3.29 on this subscale (max score of 4). The second hypothesis attempted to build on the fi ndings of Trentacosta and Shaw (2009), where less use of active distraction at age 3 predicted more peer rejection in middle childhood. There were no correlations betwee n EF development and perceptions of social acceptance to be found, but this may have been due to explanations provided in the research of Hughes and Ensor (2011). According to Hughes and Ensor (2011), positive perceptions of the self give the child a b etter chance of success both academically and socially. With the previously disc ussed high mean score of perceived cognitive competence among the children of this sam ple, it may be possible that the children felt confident enough to navigate less pos itive feelings of acceptance (M= 2.82) in order to complete the tasks given to them (e.g., the Knock-Tap Task and the delay of gratification task). If this were true, the lack of a significant correlation between EF development and perceptions of peer acceptance is u nderstandable. The third hypothesis, that problem behaviors repor ted by teachers would be negatively correlated with Knock-Tap scores, was no t supported. These findings may have been due to the fact that there were multiple teachers involved in providing ratings. By having several different classrooms involved in this study, consistency among teachers was questionable. Examining the Preschool Behavior Questionnaires for differences in scale use (i.e., did one teacher use the entire scale for rating children as
40 opposed to using only 1 or 2 levels?) did not produ ce any noticeable inconsistency. The use of this scale in this study may not have provid ed the teacher with enough of a range for rating frequency of problem behaviors, as the o nly options were Doesnt Apply, Applies Sometimes and Certainly Applies. In fut ure studies, subjectivity may be minimized and stronger correlations may be picked u p in more detailed teacher reports of problem behaviors. The fourth hypothesis, that problem behaviors rep orted by teachers would be negatively correlated with delay of gratification t imes, was not supported. However, this correlation was approaching significance and could potentially support the findings of Hughes and Ensor (2011), where low gains in EF deve lopment could predict internalizing and externalizing behaviors. This provides a future direction for research, in the simple fact that a larger sample size may provide sufficie nt power to obtain a significant result. Therefore, by providing teachers with a more detail ed scale for rating problem behaviors and increasing the sample size, it may be possible to find supporting evidence for this hypothesis. There was no support for the fifth hypothesis, whi ch expected students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to have shorter delay of gratification times if they also experienced lower perceptions of social acceptance. Considering that there was no significant correlation between socioeconomic statu s and any of the measures obtained, this hypothesis was rejected. However, future resea rch may elaborate on these findings by focusing entirely on students from low socioecon omic status backgrounds (i.e., not including any higher SES peers). One such study cou ld potentially build on the findings of Evans and Rosenbaum (2008), Baumeister et al. (2 005) and Johnson et al. (2011),
41 ultimately blending concepts that self-regulatory a bilities mediate the relationship between family factors and academic achievement and that feelings of rejection can inhibit those abilities. By focusing on an entirely low socioeconomic status sample, it may be possible to determine whether childrens per ceptions can also mediate the relationship between family factors and inhibitory control in the classroom. Overall, trends outlined in previous research, inc luding significant correlations between EF development, self-perceptions and academ ic performance, provide compelling evidence for a reconsideration of educat ion. The current study found only a faint glow of these trends in the nearly significan t correlation between reported problem behaviors and delay of gratification times. However the preschool population could use far more representation of their own perceptions in relation to academic success as these perceptions may play a significant role in forming childrens first impressions of school and learning (Valeski & Stipek, 2001; Hughes & Enso r, 2011). By understanding developmental differences in executive function ski lls and external factors that can affect the skills (e.g., such as feelings of rejection aff ecting childrens abilities to self-regulate), the importance of remembering the child as an indiv idual comes back into focus. Furthermore, if these developmental differences in EF are brought to the attention of teachers that work with children such as Samson and Clark, these children may be afforded more positive and accommodating classroom environments. When bringing the sensitive nature of child development to the forefr ont of education, a much larger window of opportunity is opened to the child as individual
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46 Table 1 Intercorrelations Among Variables Variables 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1. Socioeconomic Status --.46 -.06 .24 -.23 .30 .12 2. Problem Behaviors (PBQ score) --.32 -.35 -.51 -.39 -.33 3. PSPCSA Social Acceptance -.49 .03 -.05 .32 4. PSPCSA Cognitive Competence -.06 .29 .18 5. Delay of Gratification -.24 .07 6. Knock-Tap (two rules) -.62 7. Knock-Tap (three rules) -
47 Figure 1 a. b.
48 Figure 2
49 Figure 3 a. b.
50 Figure 4
51 Figure 5 a. b.
52 Figure 6
53 Appendix A Demographics Survey If you do not want to answer a particular question below, please feel free to move on to the next. Are you... (Circle one) Female Male What is your age? (Circle one) Under 20 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54 55+ What is your relationship status? (Circle one) Single In a relationship Married Living with partner Divorced or separated Widowed
54 How many children do you have? (Circle one) 1 2 3 4 5+ Which best describes your current employment situat ion? (Circle one) Full-time (more than 30 hours) Part-time/casual job Home maker Full-time student Retired Not currently employed What is your estimated annual household income? (Ci rcle one) Less than $25,000 $25,001-$40,000 $40,001-$70,000 $70,001-$90,000 $90,001 or more
55 What is your native language? (Circle one) English Spanish French German Other How old is the child you've permitted to participat e? ___________________ What is your child's native language? (Circle one) English Spanish French German Other
56 Appendix B The Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Soc ial Acceptance Sample Question