Developmental Ecology in Early Childhood: Implications for School Readiness

Stefanie Mollborn, University of Colorado, Boulder

Children enter school with major sociodemographic disparities established. Domain-specific focuses (e.g., poverty and family structure) on understanding how this happens at both macro and micro levels of analysis have yielded important knowledge, but broader operationalizations of young children’s social contexts are needed. This study articulates the concept of developmental ecology—proximal features of a child’s social context, distinct from interactions and individuals, which shape development and health. Using U.S. longitudinal data (ECLS-B), I conduct second-order latent class analyses to identify prevalent developmental ecologies from the domains of household resources, health risks, and ecological changes. Findings illuminate powerful associations between developmental ecology measured in preschool and children’s kindergarten readiness in cognition, behavior, and health. Developmental ecology represents a major pathway through which race/ethnicity, parental age, socioeconomic background, and nativity shape school readiness. Findings support the usefulness of a broad ecological approach to understanding school readiness.

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Presented in Session 191: Education and Child Well-Being