First Advisor

Andrew J. Mashburn

Date of Publication

Spring 5-27-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology






Preschool children -- Social networks, Teacher-student relationships -- Psychological aspects, Child development, Emotions in children, Social skills in children



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 144 pages)


The quality of children's daily experiences in preschool classrooms is predictive of their school readiness and later achievement (Duncan et al., 2007; La Paro & Pianta, 2000). One particularly important aspect of these experiences is the quality of emotional support provided by teachers and peers in the classroom (Hamre & Pianta, 2005; Howes et al., 2008; Mashburn, 2008; National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning, 2012). Traditionally, emotional support quality has been calculated as the average of ratings taken across the school year and is meant to represent children's average daily experience, without regard to any variability which exists within the ratings over time.

The bioecological model of development (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998; 2006) points out the necessity of considering in what ways learning experiences occur over time when drawing links between children's daily lives and later outcomes. In addition, attachment theory (Bowlby, 1973; Ainsworth, 1979) highlights the foundational nature of caregivers' consistency of emotional responses over time in helping young children develop skills and competencies. This study continues a line of research focused on investigating the stability of high-quality interactions as a possible mechanism through which children's optimal cognitive and social-emotional development occurs in preschool classrooms (Curby, Brock, & Hamre, 2013; Curby et al., 2011; Zinsser, Bailey, Curby, Denham, & Bassett, 2013).

The current study examined the role of children's socioeconomic and behavioral risk factors, teachers' mean emotional support, and teachers' emotional support consistency in predicting children's cognitive and social-emotional development in preschool. Children's socioeconomic and behavioral risk factors (socioeconomic status, gender, age, race, ethnicity, English Language Learner status, and self-regulation) negatively predicted both baseline scores and development over the course of the year on the cognitive measures (early math and language and literacy). Low levels of teacher-rated student self-regulation at the beginning of the year significantly negatively predicted baseline scores and development on all academic and social-emotional measures. Contrary to most previous research, teachers' mean emotional support was not found to be a significant contributor to children's development when considered with child risk factors, except in the case of receptive vocabulary. The consistency of teachers' emotional support, however, was predictive of several measures of children's development of academic skills when controlling for child risk factors. A significant interaction between English Language Learner status and emotional support consistency was found in predicting development of expressive vocabulary skills. Multilevel models combining child characteristics, mean emotional support, and emotional support consistency suggest that child risk factors and emotional support consistency predict language and literacy development, above and beyond mean emotional support. Follow-up analyses also suggest that, under conditions of relatively high emotional support, consistency is especially important in predicting children's development of cognitive and social-emotional skills.


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