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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Data for the PPVT, which represents an important control variable, was not available in the 2000–2001 cohort.
Indeed, there may be conceptual interdependence between the constructs of attention and classroom engagement. The kindergarten correlation between the four most suspected CE items (in the form of one factor: follows directions; completes work on time; works independently; and follows rules and task instructions) and the attention predictor is 0.08 (p < 0.05). Separate correlations between each item and the attention predictor resulted in correlations of 0.56, 0.46, 0.52, and 0.46, respectively. While this significant correlation supports the idea of conceptual overlap between the two constructs, both assessed at kindergarten by the same data source, researchers and clinicians and teachers may not find it as meaningful to measure the attention factor in the upper grades given that children face increasing demands from the school environment (above and beyond commonly requested kindergarten behaviors). Thus, classroom engagement, as a measure, likely represents a more applicable estimate in behavioral classroom research because it is developmentally adapted to student-environment fit processes in elementary school.
Montreal longitudinal preschool study
Peabody picture vocabulary test
Number knowledge test
Social behavior questionnaire
Mixtures of curves
Bayesian information criterion
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.
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.
Barkley, R. A. (2012). Executive functioning and self-regulation: Extended phenotype, synthesis, and clinical implications. New York: Guilford.
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.
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.
Boulerice, B. (2001). General nonlinear mixtures of curves statistical software program. Unpublished statistical software program (http://lib.stat.cmu.edu/R/CRAN/).
Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (2002). Schooling in capitalist America Revisited. Sociology of Education, 75, 1–18.
Bowles, S., Gintis, H., & Osborne, M. (2001). The determinants of earnings: a behavioral approach. Journal of Economic Literature, 39, 1137–1176.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Chang, F., & Burns, B. (2005). Attention in preschoolers: associations with effortful control and motivation. Child Development, 76, 247–263.
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.
Currie, J., & Stabile, M. (2006). Child mental health and human capital accumulation: the case of ADHD. Journal of Health Economics, 25, 1094–1118.
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.
Diamond, A., Barnett, W. S., Thomas, J., & Munro, S. (2007). Preschool program improves cognitive control. Science, 318, 1387–1388.
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.
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.
Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological Science, 16, 939–944.
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.
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.
Dunn, L. M., Thériault-Whalen, C. M., & Dunn, L. M. (Eds.). (1993). Peabody picture vocabulary test-revised: French adaptation. Toronto: Psycan.
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.
Farkas, G. (2003). Cognitive and noncognitive traits and behaviors in stratification processes. Annual Review of Sociology, 29, 541–562.
Feshbach, N., & Feshbach, S. (1987). Affective processes and academic achievement. Child Development, 58, 1335–1347.
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.
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.
Heckman, J. J. (2006). Skill formation and the economics of investing in disadvantaged children. Science, 312, 1900–1902.
High, P. C., & the Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependant Care and Council on School Health. (2008). School readiness. Pediatrics, 121, 1008–1015.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lillard, A., & Else-Quest, N. (2006). The early years: evaluating Montessori education. Science, 313, 1893–1894.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
McKinney, J. D., Mason, J., Perkerson, K., & Clifford, M. (1975). Relationship between classroom behavior and academic achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 87, 198–203.
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.
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.
Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Rodriguez, M. I. (1989). Delay of gratification in children. Science, 244, 933–938.
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.
Nagin, D. (2005). Analyzing developmental trajectories: a semi-parametric, group-based approach. Psychological Methods, 4, 139–157.
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.
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.
Nyhus, E. K., & Pons, E. (2005). The effects of personality on earnings. Journal of Economic Psychology, 26, 363–384.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Richters, J. E. (1997). The Hubble hypothesis and the developmentalist’s dilemma. Development and Psychopathology, 9, 193–229.
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.
Schaefer, B., & McDermott, P. (1999). Learning behavior and intelligence as explanations for children's scholastic achievement. Journal of School Psychology, 37, 299–313.
Schafer, J. L. (1999). Multiple imputation: a primer. Statistical Methods in Medical Research, 8, 3.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This research was funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC, International Collaboration Fund, #861-2007-1005, with first author as principle investigator) and team funding from the Fonds de Recherche sur la Société et la Culture (FRSC, #136876). Authors had full access to data, are responsible for its integrity, and accuracy of analysis.
About this article
Cite this article
Pagani, L.S., Fitzpatrick, C. & Parent, S. Relating Kindergarten Attention to Subsequent Developmental Pathways of Classroom Engagement in Elementary School. J Abnorm Child Psychol 40, 715–725 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-011-9605-4
- School readiness
- Classroom behavior
- Learning-related behavior
- Classroom productivity
- Approaches to learning