Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 715–725 | Cite as

Relating Kindergarten Attention to Subsequent Developmental Pathways of Classroom Engagement in Elementary School

  • Linda S. Pagani
  • Caroline Fitzpatrick
  • Sophie Parent


We examine the relationship between children’s kindergarten attention skills and developmental patterns of classroom engagement throughout elementary school in disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods. Kindergarten measures include teacher ratings of classroom behavior, direct assessments of number knowledge and receptive vocabulary, and parent-reported family characteristics. From grades 1 through 6, teachers also rated children’s classroom engagement. Semi-parametric mixture modeling generated three distinct trajectories of classroom engagement (n = 1369, 50% boys). Higher levels of kindergarten attention were proportionately associated with greater chances of belonging to better classroom engagement trajectories compared to the lowest classroom engagement trajectory. In fact, improvements in kindergarten attention reliably increased the likelihood of belonging to more productive classroom engagement trajectories throughout elementary school, above and beyond confounding child and family factors. Measuring the development of classroom productivity is pertinent because such dispositions represent precursors to mental health, task-orientation, and persistence in high school and workplace behavior in adulthood.


School readiness Attention Classroom behavior Learning-related behavior Classroom productivity Approaches to learning 



Montreal longitudinal preschool study


Peabody picture vocabulary test


Number knowledge test


Classroom engagement


Social behavior questionnaire


Mixtures of curves


Bayesian information criterion


  1. Alexander, K., & Entwisle, D. (1998). Facilitating the transition to first grade: the nature of transition and research on factors affecting it. Elementary School Journal, 98, 351–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexander, K. L., Entwisle, D. R., & Dauber, S. L. (1993). First-grade classroom behavior: its short-and long-term consequences for school performance. Child Development, 64, 801–814.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barkley, R. A. (2012). Executive functioning and self-regulation: Extended phenotype, synthesis, and clinical implications. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  4. Blair, C. (2002). School readiness: integrating cognition and emotion in a neurobiological conceptualization of children's functioning at school entry. American Psychologist, 57, 111–135.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blair, C., & Razza, R. P. (2007). Relating effortful control, executive function, and false belief understanding to emerging math and literacy ability in kindergarten. Child Development, 78, 647–663.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boulerice, B. (2001). General nonlinear mixtures of curves statistical software program. Unpublished statistical software program (
  7. Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (2002). Schooling in capitalist America Revisited. Sociology of Education, 75, 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bowles, S., Gintis, H., & Osborne, M. (2001). The determinants of earnings: a behavioral approach. Journal of Economic Literature, 39, 1137–1176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Broidy, L. M., Nagin, D. S., Tremblay, R. E., Bates, J. E., Brame, B., Dodge, K. A., Fergusson, D., Horwood, J. L., Loeber, R., Laird, R., Lynam, D. R., Moffitt, T. E., Pettit, G. S., & Vitaro, F. (2003). Developmental trajectories of childhood disruptive behaviors and adolescent delinquency: A six site, cross-national study. Developmental Psychology, 39, 222–245.Google Scholar
  10. Bull, R., & Scerif, G. (2001). Executive functioning as a predictor of children's mathematics ability: inhibition, switching, and working memory. Developmental Neuropsychology, 19, 273–293.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carter, A. S., Wagmiller, R. J., Gray, S. A., McCarthy, K. J., Horwitz, S. M., & Briggs-Gowan, M. J. (2010). Prevalence of DSM-IV disorder in a representative, healthy birth cohort at school entry: sociodemographic risks and social adaptation. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 49, 686–698.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Caspi, A., & Silva, P. (1995). Temperamental qualities at age three predict personality traits in young adulthood: longitudinal evidence from a birth cohort. Child Development, 66, 486–498.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Caspi, A., Wright, B., Moffitt, T. E., & Silva, P. A. (1998). Early failure in the labor market: childhood and adolescent predictors of unemployment in the transition to adulthood. American Sociological Review, 63, 424–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chang, F., & Burns, B. (2005). Attention in preschoolers: associations with effortful control and motivation. Child Development, 76, 247–263.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cunha, F., Heckman, J. J., Lochner, L. J., & Masterov, D. V. (2006). Interpreting evidence on life skill formation. In E. A. Hanushek & F. Welch (Eds.), Handbook of the economics of education (pp. 697–812). Amsterdam: North Holland.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Currie, J., & Stabile, M. (2006). Child mental health and human capital accumulation: the case of ADHD. Journal of Health Economics, 25, 1094–1118.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dennis, T., & Brotman, L. (2003). Effortful control, attention, and aggressive behavior in preschoolers at risk for conduct problems. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1008, 252–255.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Diamond, A., Barnett, W. S., Thomas, J., & Munro, S. (2007). Preschool program improves cognitive control. Science, 318, 1387–1388.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. DiPrete, T. A., & Eirich, G. M. (2006). Cumulative advantage as a mechanism for inequality: a review of theoretical and empirical developments. American Sociological Review, 71, 515–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dobkin, P. L., Tremblay, R. E., Masse, L. C., & Vitaro, F. (1995). Individual and peer characteristics in predicting boys' early onset of substance abuse: a seven-year longitudinal study. Child Development, 66, 1198–1214.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological Science, 16, 939–944.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Duckworth, A., & Seligman, M. (2006). Self-discipline gives girls the edge: gender in self-discipline, grades, and achievement test scores. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 198–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., et al. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1428–1446.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dunn, L. M., Thériault-Whalen, C. M., & Dunn, L. M. (Eds.). (1993). Peabody picture vocabulary test-revised: French adaptation. Toronto: Psycan.Google Scholar
  25. Entwisle, D. R., Alexander, K. L., & Olson, L. S. (2005). First grade and educational attainment by age 22: a new story 1. American Journal of Sociology, 110, 1458–1502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Farkas, G. (2003). Cognitive and noncognitive traits and behaviors in stratification processes. Annual Review of Sociology, 29, 541–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Feshbach, N., & Feshbach, S. (1987). Affective processes and academic achievement. Child Development, 58, 1335–1347.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School engagement: potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74, 59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Greenfield Spira, E., & Fischel, J. E. (2005). The impact of preschool inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity on social and academic development: a review. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46, 755–773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Heckman, J. J. (2006). Skill formation and the economics of investing in disadvantaged children. Science, 312, 1900–1902.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. High, P. C., & the Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependant Care and Council on School Health. (2008). School readiness. Pediatrics, 121, 1008–1015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jestor, J. M., Nigg, J. T., Buu, A., Puttler, L. I., Glass, J. M., Heitzeg, M. M., et al. (2008). Trajectories of childhood aggression and inattention/hyperactivity: differential effects on substance abuse in adolescence. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 47, 1–8.Google Scholar
  33. Jones, B., Nagin, D., & Roeder, K. (2001). A SAS procedure based on mixture models for estimating developmental trajectories. Sociological Methods and Research, 29, 374–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kochanska, G., Murray, K., & Harlan, E. (2000). Effortful control in early childhood: continuity and change, antecedents, and implications for social development. Developmental Psychology, 36, 220–232.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Li-Grining, C. P., Votruba-Drzal, E., Maldonado-Carreno, C., & Hass, K. (2010). Children’s early approaches to learning and academic trajectories through fifth grade. Developmental Psychology, 46, 1063–1077.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lillard, A., & Else-Quest, N. (2006). The early years: evaluating Montessori education. Science, 313, 1893–1894.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lleras, C. (2008). Do skills and behaviors in high school matter? The contribution of noncognitive factors in explaining differences in educational attainment and earnings. Social Science Research, 37, 888–902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. MacDonald, V., & Achenbach, T. (1999). Attention problems versus conduct problems as 6-year predictors of signs of disturbance in a national sample. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 38, 1254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Marsh, R., Gerber, A. J., & Peterson, B. S. (2008). Neuroimaging studies of normal brain development and their relevance for understanding childhood neuropsychiatric disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 47, 1233–1251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McClelland, M. M., Acock, A. C., & Morrison, F. J. (2006). The impact of kindergarten learning-related skills on academic trajectories at the end of elementary school. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 21, 471–490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McClelland, M. M., Cameron, C. E., Connor, C. M., Farris, C. L., Jewkes, A. M., & Morrison, F. J. (2007). Links between behavioral regulation and preschoolers’ literacy, vocabulary, and math skills. Developmental Psychology, 43, 947–959.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McDermott, P., Mordell, M., & Stoltzfus, J. (2001). The organization of student performance in American schools: discipline, motivation, verbal learning, and nonverbal learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 65–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McGee, R., Partridge, F., Williams, S., & Silva, P. (1991). A twelve-year follow-up of preschool hyperactive children. Journal of American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 30, 224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McKinney, J. D., Mason, J., Perkerson, K., & Clifford, M. (1975). Relationship between classroom behavior and academic achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 87, 198–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. McWayne, C. M., Fantuzzo, J. W., & McDermott, P. A. (2004). Preschool competency in context: an investigation of the unique contribution of child competencies to early academic success. Developmental Psychology, 40, 633–645.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Peake, P. K. (1988). The nature of adolescent competencies predicted by preschool delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 687–696.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Rodriguez, M. I. (1989). Delay of gratification in children. Science, 244, 933–938.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Moffitt, T. E., & Caspi, A. (2001). Childhood predictors differentiate life-course persistent and adolescence limited antisocial pathways, among males and females. Development & Psychopathology, 13, 355–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Nagin, D. (2005). Analyzing developmental trajectories: a semi-parametric, group-based approach. Psychological Methods, 4, 139–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Nagin, D., & Tremblay, R. E. (1999). Trajectories of boys' physical aggression, opposition, and hyperactivity on the path to physically violent and nonviolent juvenile delinquency. Child Development, 70, 1181–1196.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Normandeau, S., & Guay, F. (1998). Preschool behavior and first-grade school achievement: the mediational role of cognitive self-control. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 111–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Nyhus, E. K., & Pons, E. (2005). The effects of personality on earnings. Journal of Economic Psychology, 26, 363–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Okamoto, Y., & Case, R. (1996). Exploring the microstructure of children's central conceptual structures in the domain of number. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 61, 27–58.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pagani, L. S., Tremblay, R. E., Vitaro, F., Kerr, M. A., & McDuff, P. (1998). The impact of family transition on the development of delinquency in adolescent boys: a 9-year longitudinal study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 39, 489–499.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Pagani, L. S., Boulerice, B., Tremblay, R. E., & Vitaro, F. (1999). Effects of poverty on academic failure and delinquency in boys: a change and process model approach. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 40, 1209–1219.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Pagani, L., Tremblay, R. E., Vitaro, F., Boulerice, B., & McDuff, P. (2001). Effects of grade retention on academic performance and behavioral development. Development and Psychopathology, 13, 297–315.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Pagani, L., Japel, C., Vaillancourt, T., Coté, S., & Tremblay, R. E. (2008a). Links between life course trajectories of family dysfunction and anxiety during middle childhood. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36, 41–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Pagani, L., Vitaro, F., Tremblay, R., McDuff, P., Japel, C., & Larose, S. (2008b). When predictions fail: the case of unexpected pathways toward high school dropout. Journal of Social Issues, 64, 175–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Pagani, L., Derevensky, J. L., & Japel, C. (2009). Predicting gambling behavior in sixth grade from kindergarten impulsivity: a tale of developmental continuity. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 163, 238–243.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Pagani, L., Fitzpatrick, C., Archambault, I., & Janosz, M. (2010a). School readiness and later achievement: a French-Canadian replication and extension. Developmental Psychology, 46(5), 984–994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Pagani, L. S., Fitzpatrick, C. F., Barnett, T. A., & Dubow, E. (2010b). Prospective associations between early childhood televiewing and later mental and physical health. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 164, 425–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Putnam, S., Rothbart, M., & Gartstein, M. (2008). Homotypic and heterotypic continuity of fine-grained temperament during infancy, toddlerhood, and early childhood. Infant and Child Development, 17, 387–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Razza, R. A., Martin, A., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2010). Associations among family environment, sustained attention, and school readiness for low-income children. Developmental Psychology, 46, 1528–1542.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Richters, J. E. (1997). The Hubble hypothesis and the developmentalist’s dilemma. Development and Psychopathology, 9, 193–229.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Romano, E., Kohen, D., Babchishin, L., & Pagani, L. (2010). School readiness and later achievement: replication and extension study using a nation-wide Canadian survey. Developmental Psychology, 46, 995–1007.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Schaefer, B., & McDermott, P. (1999). Learning behavior and intelligence as explanations for children's scholastic achievement. Journal of School Psychology, 37, 299–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Schafer, J. L. (1999). Multiple imputation: a primer. Statistical Methods in Medical Research, 8, 3.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., & Peake, P. K. (1990). Predicting adolescent cognitive and self-regulatory competencies from preschool delay of gratification: identifying diagnostic conditions. Developmental Psychology, 26, 978–986.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Tremblay, R. E., Loeber, R., Gagnon, C., Charlebois, P., Larivée, S., & LeBlanc, M. (1991). Disruptive boys with stable and unstable high fighting behavior patterns during junior elementary school. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 19, 285–300.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Tremblay, R. E., Pihl, R. O., Vitaro, F., & Dobkin, P. L. (1994). Predicting early onset of male antisocial behavior from preschool behavior: a test of two personality theories. Archives of General Psychiatry, 51, 732–739.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Vitaro, F., Brendgen, M., Larose, S., & Tremblay, R. E. (2005). Kindergarten disruptive behaviors, protective factors, and educational achievement by early adulthood. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 617–629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Yen, C., Konold, T., & McDermott, P. (2004). Does learning behavior augment cognitive ability as an indicator of academic achievement? Journal of School Psychology, 42, 157–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda S. Pagani
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Caroline Fitzpatrick
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sophie Parent
    • 1
  1. 1.School Environment Research GroupUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Centre de Recherche de l’Hôpital Sainte-Justine (Brain Health Division)Université de MontréalMontréalCanada
  3. 3.École de psychoéducationUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada

Personalised recommendations