copy the linklink copied!Chapter 4. Social-emotional skills

This chapter presents findings on the social-emotional skills of five-year-olds in England, Estonia and the United States. It shows the differences in social-emotional scores across multiple subgroups of children, considering their individual and family characteristics, as well as their home learning environments. This is based on a direct assessment of children’s skills and reports from the children’s parents and teachers.

    

Children’s social-emotional development influences the extent to which they can play well with other children, make friends and thrive in group settings, such as in early childhood education and care (ECEC) or school. It also influences how well they are able to learn a range of other skills.

The International Early Learning and Child Well-being Study (IELS) found variations in children’s social-emotional learning across the three countries taking part, as well as within countries among different groups of children. These are largely consistent with findings for children’s self-regulation and cognitive skills, as outlined in the following chapters, although there are distinct findings on the social-emotional learning of five-year-olds in the three countries.

Children in Estonia scored more highly across almost all of the social-emotional skills assessed than those in the other two countries. Across all three countries, girls scored more highly than boys in each aspect of social-emotional learning. Children from higher socio-economic backgrounds were also rated as having higher social-emotional skills than children from disadvantaged homes, also in all three countries.

Children from immigrant backgrounds1 were reported by their teachers to have lower levels of prosocial behaviour and trust than other children, as well as lower levels of disruptive behaviour. Similar results were reported by teachers for children who spoke a different language at home from that used in the ECEC centre or school they attended.

Having experienced learning or social, emotional or behavioral difficulties was also associated with lower levels of social-emotional development. Learning difficulties were associated with lower scores for emotional identification, emotion attribution, prosocial behaviour and trust. Social, emotional or behavioural difficulties were linked to lower scores for all social-emotional skills.

The activities that parents undertake with their children are significantly associated with their children’s social-emotional development. This includes engaging in back-and-forth conversations, reading to their children regularly, role-playing, being involved in their children’s ECEC centre or school and taking their children to special activities such as dance and swimming.

This chapter describes:

  • the critical importance of children’s social-emotional skills for their development, later outcomes and well-being

  • the findings of the study in relation to children’s social-emotional skills.

These findings are based on analysis of representative samples of just under 7 000 five-year-olds in England, Estonia and the United States.

copy the linklink copied!Social-emotional skills are critical for children’s development and well-being

The development of children’s social-emotional skills is inextricably linked to their cognitive development and to their sense of overall well-being (Shuey and Kankaraš, 2018[1]). Indeed, developments in neuroscience have shown that the neural circuits involved in the regulation of emotions overlap with those associated with cognitive processing (Bush, Luu and Posner, 2000[2]; Davidson et al., 2002[3]; Posner and Rothbart, 2000[4]). Thus, cognitive development can be impeded when emotions are not well regulated. For instance, children who are not in control of their emotions are more prone to outbursts, inattention and rapid retreats from stressful situations (Garber and Dodge, 1991[5]).

Moreover, early social experiences are linked to emotional development and the construction of critical foundational capacities (Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004[6]). Rich social interactions during the early years coupled with secure attachments to parents and responsive caregivers prepare children to develop social-emotional skills during adolescence and adulthood, even if their later environments are not as nurturing. Conversely, children deprived of appropriate sensory, emotional, and social experiences during their early years are more likely to behave disruptively, with detrimental effects on their cognitive development (Shonkoff and Phillips, 2000[7]).

copy the linklink copied!Early social-emotional skills are predictive of a range of later outcomes

Early self-control and prosocial behaviour are associated with later educational attainment, socio-economic status, income and unemployment. Social-emotional skills that are learned during childhood are linked to educational achievement even after controlling for early literacy and numeracy (Duncan et al., 2007[8]). Skills such as self-control and the ability to delay gratification are strongly associated with educational attainment, socio-economic status and income later in life (Schoon et al., 2015[9]). Furthermore, early prosocial behaviour at the age of 8 has shown to be as important as early cognitive ability in predicting education attainment at the age of 30 (Schoon et al., 2015[9]) as well as in shaping attainment in adolescence and adulthood (Caprara et al., 2000[10]).

Early social-emotional skills help children to build and maintain close relationships with their parents and other family members, as well as make positive social connections outside the family. These skills help children to play and to form early friendships with other children. In turn, these social interactions build children’s ability to regulate their emotions and behaviours, their language skills and their sense of well-being (Shuey and Kankaraš, 2018[1]).

In adulthood, early social-emotional skills are one of the strongest predictors of life satisfaction, general well-being and mental health. Findings from the British Cohort Study and National Child Development Study revealed that children’s emotional health was the strongest predictor of adult life satisfaction at all ages, even more than family economic resources, family psychosocial resources and children’s cognitive ability (Flèche, Lekfuangfu and Clark, 2019[11]). Furthermore, early emotional well-being is linked with better mental health in later life, and emotional difficulties among five-year-olds are predictors of midlife psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression (Rutter, Kim-Cohen and Maughan, 2006[12]; Buchanan, Flouri and Brinke, 2002[13]).

Early empathy, trust and prosocial behaviour are associated with a lower likelihood of involvement in delinquency, violence and other crime in adulthood. In particular children with low levels of empathy are more at risk of psychopathology as adults than other children (Fontaine et al., 2011[14]).

The study focuses on children’s skills in recognising and regulating emotions as well as expressing positive social behaviour

IELS focused on children’s skills in recognising and regulating emotions and actions as well as understanding the emotions of others. Furthermore, IELS emphasised the behavioural aspects of social-emotional skills and included the expression of positive social behaviour, through co-operation and the lack of disruptive behaviour. A core component of empathy is children’s recognition of others’ emotions (emotion identification) and their emotional responsiveness to the feelings of others (emotion attribution) (Strayer, 1987[15]; Strayer, 1993[16]). Prosocial behaviour is the combination of the expression of positive social behaviour (express) and conformity with teachers’ or parents’ expectations (comply) (Hogan, Scott and Bauer, 1992[17]). Both emotion identification and emotion attribution act as precursors to engaging in prosocial behaviour in response to another person’s emotional state.

Trust was another central aspect of IELS: the child’s expectations that others will be protective and benevolent (responsive, kind), which overlaps with security of attachment (Bowlby, 1969[18]). By preschool, children generalise their expectations of responsiveness from parents to other children and other adults. Thus, trusting (or securely attached) five-year-olds expect classmates to be reasonable and co-operative and teachers to be protective and benevolent (Sroufe, 2005[19]). Just as there are various ways to be insecure, there are multiple ways to be mistrustful. Mistrustful children might be overly wary or fearful of peers or adults, reluctant to engage with others, or be needy and dependent since they do not trust others to always be responsive and supportive.

Children participating in IELS responded to hypothetical (story) scenarios designed to elicit empathy. The narrated stories consisted of brief vignettes with cartoon-like characters (Figure 4.1). The measurement of empathy included both how well children could recognise the emotions of the characters in the stories and how the child felt and why in response to the situations portrayed within each story. The child interacted with the stories via an electronic tablet, with one-to-one support from a trained study administrator.

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Figure 4.1. Children were asked how characters in the IELS stories were feeling
Figure 4.1. Children were asked how characters in the IELS stories were feeling

In addition, both parents and teachers provided information about children’s social-emotional skills. By collecting data from parents and teachers as well as the direct assessment, IELS aimed to provide a comprehensive assessment of early social-emotional skills. Parents and teachers responded to questions relating to children’s empathy, trust and their prosocial and disruptive behaviour, including emotional control. Reports of disruptive behaviour were inverted, so that non-disruptive rather than disruptive behaviour is reported.

copy the linklink copied!Overall findings

Children in Estonia identify others’ emotions more accurately and have stronger prosocial behaviour than children in England or the United States, but are more disruptive

A higher proportion of children in Estonia accurately identified others’ emotions in the direct assessment than children in England or the United States. In addition, teachers reported higher prosocial skills among children in Estonia than reported by teachers in the other two countries. In contrast, however, teachers in Estonia also reported children in Estonia as more disruptive than reported by teachers in the other two countries. There were no significant differences across the three countries in the mean scores for emotion attribution and trust.

Findings for each of the three countries on the social-emotional skills measured by this study are set out in Table 4.1.

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Table 4.1. Mean scores in social-emotional skills, by country

 

Emotion identification

Emotion attribution

Prosocial behaviour

Trust

Non-disruptive behaviour

Estonia

511

500

511

503

470

England

497

500

495

504

515

United States

493

500

494

493

515

Figure 4.2 shows the distribution of scores for emotion identification, emotion attribution, prosocial behaviour, trust and non-disruptive behaviour, by country. Children in England and the United States demonstrated similar skill levels in identifying others’ emotions, whereas a greater proportion of children in Estonia scored at the upper end of the skill distribution. While the average score was the same for emotion attribution in each country, the scores for children in Estonia were more widely spread than in England or the United States. In prosocial skills, the three countries had similar proportions of children at the lower skill levels but Estonia had more children scoring at the upper levels of the skill distribution. While there were no significant differences in the country means for trust, a higher percentage of children in England and Estonia were reported to have very high levels of trust than reported in the United States. For non-disruptive behaviour, England and the United States again demonstrated a similar distribution across scores, whereas a higher proportion of children in Estonia were reported to have lower levels of non-disruptive behaviour.

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Figure 4.2. Distribution of children’s social-emotional skills, by country
Figure 4.2. Distribution of children’s social-emotional skills, by country

Note: Distribution produced using the first plausible value only.

Children’s social-emotional skills increase with age

As expected, children’s social-emotional skills develop as they mature. The largest differences based on age in months related to emotion identification and emotion attribution, which are set out in Figure 4.3. Differences based on age were smaller for prosocial and non-disruptive behaviour, and even smaller for trust. The increases in scores relating to children’s age in months were similar between boys and girls as well as between children from high and low socio-economic groups.

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Figure 4.3. Social-emotion skills by age in months, by country
Figure 4.3. Social-emotion skills by age in months, by country

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110410

Girls have more developed social-emotional skills than boys

There was a significant gender difference in favour of girls for each of the five measures of children’s social-emotional skills, in all three countries (Figure 4.4). The largest gender difference was for prosocial behaviour, followed by emotion identification and non-disruptive behaviour. Among the three countries, the largest gender differences were found in Estonia and the smallest in the United States. Gender differences were similar across socio-economic groups.

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Figure 4.4. Social-emotional scores, by gender
Figure 4.4. Social-emotional scores, by gender

Note: The gender differences in mean, 25th percentile, and 75th percentile scores are statistically significant.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110429

Both parents and teachers reported girls as having higher social-emotional skills than boys, although teachers reported larger gender differences than parents. At the same time, parents’ views of their children’s social-emotional skills were more positive than the reports from teachers, for both boys and girls, and particularly for empathy. Parent and teacher responses to specific questions on children’s social-emotional development are provided in Figure 4.5.

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Figure 4.5. Social-emotional development as reported by parents and teachers, by gender
Figure 4.5. Social-emotional development as reported by parents and teachers, by gender

Note: The figure is comparing the same children rated by their teachers and parents.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110448

Children from higher socio-economic backgrounds have more developed social-emotional skills than their less advantaged peers

There were positive associations between socio-economic background and children’s scores in both the direct assessments of empathy and teachers’ reports of children’s social-emotional skills (Figure 4.6). The size of these associations were similar across the three countries for emotion identification, prosocial behaviour, trust and non-disruptive behaviour. The relationship between socio-economic background and emotion attribution was smaller in Estonia in comparison with England, and similar to that in the United States.

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Figure 4.6. Children’s social-emotional skills, by socio-economic status
Figure 4.6. Children’s social-emotional skills, by socio-economic status

Note: The differences between the top and bottom quartile of SES are statistically significant.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110467

The largest difference associated with children’s socio-economic background was in emotion identification and the least in non-disruptive behaviour. The correlations between socio-economic status and disruptive behaviour were relatively small across all three countries, and only statistically significant in England.

Parents and teachers were more likely to report children from higher socio-economic groups as having stronger social-emotional skills than children from lower socio-economic groups (Figure 4.7). Among parents, these reported differences were greater for empathy than for emotional control.

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Figure 4.7. Social-emotional development as reported by parents and teachers, by socio-economic status
Figure 4.7. Social-emotional development as reported by parents and teachers, by socio-economic status

Note: The figure is comparing the same children rated by their teachers and parents.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110486

Children with an immigrant background have lower levels of trust and prosocial behaviour than other children, but are less disruptive

Approximately 12% of children in the study across the three countries had an immigrant background. The relationships between having an immigrant background and social-emotional development at an individual country level were not significant, once socio-economic status and home language were taken into account. However, when the findings from the three countries were combined, the study found having an immigrant background was associated with lower trust and prosocial behaviour, as well as lower levels of disruptive behaviour, as shown in Figure 4.8.

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Figure 4.8. Social-emotional scores, by immigrant background
Score-point differences between children with an immigrant background and those without, before and after accounting for socio-economic status and home language
Figure 4.8. Social-emotional scores, by immigrant background

Note: All differences are statistically significant.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110505

Parents with an immigrant background rated their children’s social-emotional skills at similar levels to other parents. Both groups of parents had more positive views of their children’s empathy skills than their children’s levels of emotional control (Figure 4.9).

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Figure 4.9. Social-emotional development as reported by parents and teachers, by immigrant background
Figure 4.9. Social-emotional development as reported by parents and teachers, by immigrant background

Note: The figure is comparing the same children rated by their teachers and parents.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110524

Children with a different home language from their ECEC centre or school are less disruptive than other children

Parents of children in the study were also asked to identify whether one or both parents spoke a language at home that was different from the language of the ECEC centre or school that the child attends.2 Across the three countries, 13% of children in this study had a different home language.

The direct assessments were carried out in English in England and in the United States, and in Estonian or Russian in Estonia.

The study did not find significant differences at an individual country level between children who had a different home language from their ECEC centre or school and other children. When the findings from each country are combined, children with a different home language to their ECEC centre or school had lower scores for emotion attribution in the direct assessment and were reported by teachers to have lower levels of prosocial behaviour and trust than other children. Similar to children with an immigrant background, children with a different home language were reported by their teachers as being less disruptive than other children, as illustrated in Figure 4.10.

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Figure 4.10. Social-emotional scores, by home language
Score-point differences between children with at least one parent who speaks a language other than the assessment language at home and children with parent(s) who mainly speak the assessment language at home
Figure 4.10. Social-emotional scores, by home language

Note: All differences are statistically significant.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110543

Parents of children who had a different home language from the language of their child’s ECEC centre or school had a similar view of their children’s empathy skills and a slightly more positive view of their children’s emotional control to other parents. Both groups of parents had more positive views of their children’s empathy skills than teachers, but similar view on their children’s levels of emotional control (Figure 4.11).

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Figure 4.11. Social-emotional development as reported by parents and teachers, by home language
Figure 4.11. Social-emotional development as reported by parents and teachers, by home language

Note: The figure is comparing the same children rated by their teachers and parents.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110562

Learning and behavioural difficulties are negatively associated with social-emotional learning

Parents also provided information on whether their child was premature or had a low birthweight3, learning difficulties (e.g. speech or language delay, intellectual disability) or social, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Across the three countries, the mean percentage of children with at least one of these challenges was 24%, with a mean of 9% having experienced low birthweight or who had been premature, 11% having experienced learning difficulties and 10% having experienced social, emotional or behavioural difficulties. On average across countries, 5% of children had experienced two of these challenges and 1%, on average, experienced all three.

Overall, parents in England and Estonia reported fewer children with these challenges than parents in the United States. Parents in Estonia reported the smallest proportion of premature and low birth weight children while parents in England reported the smallest proportion of children with behavioural difficulties.

There was no significant gender difference in the proportion of children who had been premature or who had a low birth weight. Boys were twice as likely as girls to be reported by their parents as having learning difficulties and a similar ratio of boys to girls were reported by their parents as having behavioural difficulties. Similarly, children from low socio-economic backgrounds were a little more than twice as likely to be reported by their parents as having learning difficulties or social, emotional or behavioural difficulties.

Premature birth and low birthweight had the smallest association with children’s social-emotional scores, as illustrated in Figure 4.12. Learning difficulties were most negatively associated with children’s ability to identify others’ emotions, prosocial behaviour and trust. Social, emotional or behavioural difficulties were negatively associated with all five dimensions of children’s social-emotional skills, particularly for reported levels of prosocial and non-disruptive behaviour. Children who were premature or had a low birthweight and children who had learning difficulties were not reported by their teachers as more disruptive than other children (Figure 4.12).

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Figure 4.12. Association between early difficulties and social-emotional scores
Score-point differences between children who have and have not experienced an early difficulty, before and after accounting for socio-economic status
Figure 4.12. Association between early difficulties and social-emotional scores

Note: Darker coloured markers indicate that the difference is statistically significant.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110581

Parent-child activities are positively associated with children’s social-emotional skills

The activities parents undertake with their children and other aspects of the home learning environment are significantly associated with children’s social-emotional skills. Children whose parents engage them in back-and-forth conversations about how they feel are more able to accurately identify others’ emotions. Children whose parents regularly read books to them and engage them in role-play activities were also found to have more positive social-emotional skills and behaviour (Figure 4.13).

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Figure 4.13. Social-emotional scores by frequency of being read to by parents
After accounting for socio-economic status
Figure 4.13. Social-emotional scores by frequency of being read to by parents

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110600

A higher proportion of parents in England (59%) reported that they read to their children 5-7 days a week than parents in Estonia (28%) or the United States (43%). Children from advantaged backgrounds were much more likely to be read to 5-7 days a week (60% on average across the three countries) than children from disadvantaged backgrounds (30%).

Teachers were asked how involved parents were with the ECEC centre or school the child attended, ranging from not involved to slightly, moderately or strongly involved. Teachers in Estonia reported that 80% of parents were moderately or strongly involved, compared to 69% of parents in England and 65% in the United States. More parents from high SES groups (84%) were reported to be involved in their child’s ECEC centre or school than parents from low SES groups (67%).

Children whose parents were involved in their ECEC centre or school had stronger empathy and higher ratings for prosocial skills and trust and lower ratings for disruptive behaviour than other children (Figure 4.14).

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Figure 4.14. Social-emotional scores by parental involvement in school activities
After accounting for socio-economic status
Figure 4.14. Social-emotional scores by parental involvement in school activities

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110619

Other elements of children’s home environment that were positively associated with their social-emotional skills were having children’s books in the home and taking part in special activities such as sports or scouts (Figure 4.15).

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Figure 4.15. Social-emotional scores by engagement in special activities outside the home
After accounting for socio-economic status
Figure 4.15. Social-emotional scores by engagement in special activities outside the home

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110638

Children in Estonia were more likely to attend special activities at least 3 times a week than children in England or the United States. Children in the United States were more likely to never attend or attend less than once a week than children in the other two countries. Boys and girls were, on average, equally likely to be taken to such activities. Children from high socio-economic backgrounds were more likely to attend such activities at least 3 times a week (22%), compared to children from low socio-economic backgrounds (11%).

While parents, in the main, were equally likely to undertake these activities with both their daughters and their sons, parents reported more frequent role-play with girls than with boys.

Mothers’ education levels are positively correlated with children’s social-emotional skills

Children whose mothers had completed tertiary education4 had higher scores for social-emotional learning than children whose mothers had not (Figure 4.16). After accounting for socio-economic status, mothers’ education levels were significantly correlated with emotion identification, prosocial behaviour and trust.

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Figure 4.16. Social-emotional scores by mother’s educational attainment
Score-point differences between children whose mothers have at least a bachelor’s degree and those whose mothers do not, before and after accounting for highest parental occupational status
Figure 4.16. Social-emotional scores by mother’s educational attainment

Note: Darker coloured markers indicate that the difference is statistically significant.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110657

Parents’ with higher levels of education were more likely to engage their children in activities that help children to develop, such as reading to them from books. In addition, studies of children’s early development have also found independent positive effects, particularly of mothers’ educational attainment (Sylva et al., 2003[25]). As noted in Chapter 3 on the characteristics of each participating country, Estonian mothers were more likely to have a bachelor degree (53%) than either England (40%) or the United States (39%).

The use of digital devices shows little relationship with children’s social-emotional skills

On average across the three participating countries, 83% of children used a digital device at least once a week, with 42% using such devices every day. Only 7% of the children never or hardly ever used digital devices, with 10% using one at least monthly, but not weekly.

Access to digital devices had little association with children’s overall social-emotional scores.

There are few associations between household composition and children’s social-emotional skills

While children from single-parent households were reported by their teachers to have higher levels of disruptive behaviour in the United States, after accounting for the household’s socio-economic status, this was not the case in England or Estonia. There were no differences between children from single-parent and two-parent households for any of the other indicators of social-emotional skills. This was equally the case for boys and for girls.

Children with one or more siblings in England and Estonia were less likely to be disruptive than children without siblings, but there was no such difference in the United States.

ECEC attendance is not clearly related to children’s social-emotional development

In England and Estonia, almost all children attend ECEC before the age of five, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds. In the United States, however, this is not the case. In 2017, 100% of three-year-olds in the United Kingdom participated in ECEC, compared to 91% in Estonia and 42% in the US, against an OECD average of 79% (OECD, 2019).

ECEC participation among children taking part in IELS in the United States varied significantly depending on their families’ socio-economic status. Children from families in the top SES quartile were more likely (91%) to have attended ECEC than children from the bottom quartile (73%).

Unlike the associations with children’s emergent literacy and numeracy, outlined in chapter 6, there were no clear relationships between whether children had participated in ECEC and their scores for social-emotional development. The study did, however, find that children who had started ECEC before three years of age were reported by teachers as having higher levels of trust than children who first attended at ages 3 or 4. At the same time, children who had started ECEC at three or four years of age were reported as being less disruptive than other children (Figure 4.17).

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Figure 4.17. Trust and non-disruptive behaviour by age of starting ECEC
Score-point differences between children who first attended ECEC when they were under 12 months and those who attended when they were two, three, and four years old, before and after accounting for socio-economic status.
Figure 4.17. Trust and non-disruptive behaviour by age of starting ECEC

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110676

Children’s social-emotional skills are associated with other areas of early learning

The relationships between children’s social-emotional skills and other areas of early learning and development were significant (Figure 4.18). The social-emotional skills children develop in the first few years of their lives help them to regulate their emotions, connect well with others and operate in group settings, including playing with other children. This supports children’s overall sense of well-being and happiness, and supports the ongoing development of other skills, such as oral language and self-regulation (Shuey and Kankaraš, 2018[1]).

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Figure 4.18. Relationship between children’s social-emotional skills and other early learning domains
Figure 4.18. Relationship between children’s social-emotional skills and other early learning domains

Note: All the correlations are statistically significant.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934110695

After accounting for socio-economic status, children’s social-emotional skills in England explained between 13% and 32% of the variation in emerging literacy, 5-27% in Estonia and 7-33% in the United States (Figure 4.18). These results demonstrate the significant relationship between social-emotional development and cognitive development.

copy the linklink copied!Conclusions

Children’s social-emotional skills are critical for well-being and happiness, and for their ongoing development and learning. The relationship between children’s social-emotional skills and their development in other learning domains is significant. Thus, failing to pay attention to the development of children’s social-emotional skills means foregoing a key means of supporting children’s positive, holistic development and later success in school and beyond (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2016[20]).

Children in Estonia were able to identify others’ emotions more accurately in the direct assessment than children in England and the United States. Teachers in Estonia also reported higher prosocial skills among the children in the study than teachers in the other two countries. In contrast, children in Estonia were considered more disruptive by their teachers than those in the other two countries. There were no significant differences in mean scores across the three countries for emotion attribution and trust.

In all three countries, girls demonstrated more developed social-emotional skills than boys across all five dimensions in the study. This was particularly true for emotion identification, prosocial behaviour and non-disruptive behaviour.

The study also found higher social-emotional scores amongst children from advantaged backgrounds compared to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The largest difference associated with children’s socio-economic background was in emotion identification and the least in non-disruptive behaviour.

Children with an immigrant background, or with a different home language from that used in the ECEC centre or school they attended, were reported by teachers as having lower levels of prosocial behaviours and trust than other children but also as less disruptive.

Having experienced learning or behavioural difficulties was negatively associated with children’s social-emotional skills. Children with learning difficulties were found to have lower scores for empathy and lower ratings for prosocial behaviour and trust than other children. Children who had experienced social, emotional or behavioural difficulties had lower scores across the five social-emotional dimensions included in the study compared with children who had not experienced these difficulties.

Parental engagement with children, through a variety of activities, was positively related to children’s social-emotional development. Children whose parents had back-and-forth conversations with them, such as on how the children feel, were more able to identify emotions in others. Other activities that parents engaged in that related positively to their children’s social-emotional skills were reading to them from books and role-playing. Similarly, children whose parents who were involved in their ECEC centre or school or who took them to special activities also had higher social-emotional scores than other children.

References

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[13] Buchanan, A., E. Flouri and J. Brinke (2002), “Emotional and behavioural problems in childhood and distress in adult life: Risk and protective factors”, Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 36/4, pp. 521-527, https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1440-1614.2002.01048.x.

[2] Bush, G., P. Luu and M. Posner (2000), “Cognitive and emotional influences in anterior cingulate cortex”, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 4/6, pp. 215-222, https://doi.org/10.1016/s1364-6613(00)01483-2 (accessed on 30 July 2019).

[10] Caprara, G. et al. (2000), “Prosocial foundations of children’s academic achievement”, Psychological Science, Vol. 11/4, pp. 302-306, https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9280.00260.

[20] Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2016), From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts: A Science-Based Approach to Building a More Promising Future for Young Children and Families, Center on the Developing Child, https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/from-best-practices-to-breakthrough-impacts/ (accessed on 30 July 2019).

[3] Davidson, R. et al. (2002), “Neural and behavioral substrates of mood and mood regulation”, Biological Psychiatry, Vol. 52/6, pp. 478-502, https://doi.org/10.1016/s0006-3223(02)01458-0 (accessed on 30 July 2019).

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Notes

← 1. An immigrant background is defined as where both parents were born in a different country, or one parent, where information was only available for one parent.

← 2. The term social parent refers to an adult who is living in an information arrangement with a child’s parent. Social siblings refer to the children of a child’s social parent.

← 3. Lower than 5lbs 8oz or 2.5 kg

← 4. Tertiary education is defined as Level 5 and above on the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED), i.e. generally at bachelor’s degree level and above.

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