Critical Issues in Early Childhood Education

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The recent research aimed at the socioeconomic differences in the early childhood experience of children and their effects on the school readiness has covered the aspects of emotional stability of children, the gap in the quality of education received in head start and other various factors. This section of the study will identify and critically analyze the available literature on the impact of emotional development, racial/ethnic gaps, and parenting styles on the school readiness. The research in the field of early education has focused on the impact of school readiness on the performance, adaptability, and attendance of the children. In addition to the core areas of academic performance, the research has also demonstrated that the impact of school readiness goes beyond to influence the attentiveness, concentration, adaptability and instruction following in the children (Duncan et al., 2007).

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According to Klein (2002), there is a close link between the scholastic and social lives of the children in Kindergarten and early social and emotional development is an important determinant of school readiness (p. 10). The longitudinal research of Raver (2003) on the link to emotional development and school readiness indicate that the children who are emotionally developed and possess necessary emotional stability achieve greater success in their early childhood education. On the other hand, lack of emotional development can pose the threat to adjustment in the school environment and early learning. Similarly, the students with antisocial behavior face difficulty in acceptance from peers and teachers and become more withdrawn from the class activities. The students with emotional underdevelopment do not participate in class activities and do poorly in overall assessments (Ladd, Birch, & Buhs, 1999). Social and emotional factors, including positive interactions with teachers, positive representations of self-derived from attachment relationships, emotion knowledge, emotion regulatory abilities, social skills, and non-rejected peer status, often uniquely predict academic success. (Denham, 2006, p. 59)The experimental study of Bierman (2008) in the realm of school readiness also demonstrates the reiterating results through REDI intervention programs aimed at social-emotional development in forty-four head start classrooms. The results indicate that the enriched program helped the emotional development of students and facilitated the problem-solving skills, teambuilding skills, social skills, emotional understanding and, language proficiency of the learners. The review of literature establishes a positive impact on emotional development on school readiness of children.

The research in the school readiness has also evaluated the effect of race and ethnicity of the students on their cognitive and emotional readiness for school. Most of the studies in the correlation of ethnicity and school readiness view it through the experiences of children in preschool. Magnuson and Waldfogel (2005) identify that the ethnicity influences not only the parenting styles, but also caused differences in the early childhood experiences of students at preschool. The authors describe that the ethnic and racial gap exists in both the quality of education and the number of students enrolled in the preschool programs. Hill (2001) in his research broadens the scope of ethnicity and includes the family income as an important determinant of students school readiness. The research in this discipline states that the children from a diverse ethnic background including Black and Hispanic race are more likely to fall into the low-income strata (Fryer Jr & Levitt, 2004; Hill, 2001). As a result, the family income and ethnicity have a combined effect on school readiness. One of the hypotheses presented in the research of Fryer and Levitt (2004) for the differences in the cognitive skills and ultimate academic performance is that the African American students receive poor quality education in their early years which delays their school readiness.

In comparison to the above-mentioned studies on ethnic and racial gaps, the research of Farkas (2003) highlights that the children from ethnic minorities including African-American, Latino American, and Indian demonstrate a less-suitable behavior in an early learning environment and the behavior can affect their performance in the early academic years. According to the research, the fully three-fourths of the African American cognitive skills gap at kindergarten entry is accounted for by the social class background differential between African American and White families (Farkas, 2003, p. 1121). The ethnicity acts as a moderator between the child-teacher relationships and thus, it influences the adjustment of students in the classroom. The research of Ewing and Taylor (2009) reviews the child-teacher relationship in the context of adjustment in the classroom and shows that the matched ethnicity of student and teacher is associated with more positive approach and more positive relationship. The research also highlights the differences in emotional development and socialization skills with regards to the ethnic gaps and adjustment level in the class room (Ewing & Taylor, 2009; Graves Jr & Howes, 2011).The researcher has examined the ethnic and racial differences in the level of school readiness including cognitive abilities, instruction following, and discipline. However, most of the research in this domain in conducted in the context of socioeconomic background of the students, and is aimed at cognitive abilities.

The research in school readiness has investigated that how the parenting styles stemming from the different ethnic, education, cultural and linguistic gaps affect the school readiness. Brooks-Gunn & Markman (2005) categorize the parenting styles and their impact on school readiness in seven different aspects including nurturing, discipline, teaching, language, method, monitoring, and management. The authors conclude that the parenting styles of these behaviors have a profound impact on the school readiness and academic achievement of children. The mothers of the Hispanic and African-American students are less likely to demonstrate the parenting styles which accentuate the school readiness. Another aspect of school readiness and parenting is that the parents appear to emphasize the cognitive ability of the child for the preparation of learning environment and underrate the childs emotional development (Diamond, Reagan, & Bandyk, 2000, p. 99). The research has found that the parent-initiated involvement practices have a positive impact on the school outcomes of the students (Spera, 2005, p. 128). Correlating the parenting styles and ethnic gaps, the research has shown that the racial and ethnic differences in parenting because of the different cultural and socioeconomic variables are in parallel to the differences in school readiness of different ethnicities. According to the study, When such parenting differences are controlled, the gaps in school readiness drop 25 percent to 50 percent (Brooks-Gunn & Markman, 2005, p. 157).


Klein (2002) highlights the strong link between the childrens emotional development and their scholastic lives and reiterates that the emotional development is a critical determinant of academic success and school readiness. In the interventions for emotional development, the study of Bierman (2008) provides pragmatic results for policy making; the research concludes that accentuating the emotional development leads to better problem-solving skills, team-building and socialization skills. Furthermore, Magnuson and Waldfogel (2005) identify that the racial and ethnic gaps in the school readiness originate from both the different parenting styles, and discriminative treatment of these students in preschool years. Farkas (2003) further reinforced the results and establish that three-fourth African American students have less-developed cognitive abilities for school readiness than their white counterparts. Finally, the Brooks-Gunn and Markman (2005) describe a positive relationship between supporting parenting styles and school readiness.


From the various scholarly articles and books that have been examined, several inferences can be made. In this regard, childrens ethnic and cultural backgrounds affect their cognitive and hence emotional development of such children. Those effects can be traced from preschool where the African American children possess lower cognitive skills than their counterpart from the white families can. Additionally, the social backgrounds are also factors that affect the ability of children to develop emotionally in their childhood days. The parenting styles of nurturing, discipline, teaching, language, method, monitoring, and management have a huge effect on the ability of the child to be ready for school. While the children from the white families are accustomed to the idea of learning, those from the African American families do not know of the same presenting the differences in cognitive abilities.


Brooks-Gunn, J., & Markman, L. (2005). The contribution of parenting to ethnic and racial gaps in school readiness. The future of children, 15(1), 139-168.

Denham, S. A. (2006). Social-emotional competence as support for school readiness: What is it and how do we assess it? Early education and development, 17(1), 57-89.

Diamond, K. E., Reagan, A. J., & Bandyk, J. E. (2000). Parents' conceptions of kindergarten readiness: Relationships with race, ethnicity, and development. The Journal of Educational Research, 94(2), 93-100.

Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., . . . Brooks-Gunn, J. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental psychology, 43(6), 1428.

Ewing, A. R., & Taylor, A. R. (2009). The role of child gender and ethnicity in teacherchild relationship quality and children's behavioral adjustment in preschool. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 24(1), 92-105.

Farkas, G. (2003). Racial disparities and discrimination in education: What do we know, how do we know it, and what do we need to know? The Teachers College Record, 105(6), 1119-1146.

Fryer Jr, R. G., & Levitt, S. D. (2004). Understanding the black-white test score gap in the first two years of school. Review of Economics and Statistics, 86(2), 447-464.

Graves Jr, S. L., & Howes, C. (2011). Ethnic differences in social-emotional development in preschool: The impact of teacher child relationships and classroom quality. School Psychology Quarterly, 26(3), 202.

Klein, L. G. (2002). Set for success: Building a strong foundation for school readiness based on the social-emotional development of young children. The Kauffman early education exchange, 1(1), 1-5.

Ladd, G. W., Birch, S. H., & Buhs, E. S. (1999). Children's social and scholastic lives in kindergarten: Related spheres of influence? Child development, 1373-1400.

Magnuson, K. A., & Waldfogel, J. (2005). Early childhood care and education: Effects on ethnic and racial gaps in school readiness. The future of children, 15(1), 169-196.

Raver, C. (2003). Young childrens emotional development and school readiness. Social policy report, 16(3), 3-19.

Spera, C. (2005). A review of the relationship among parenting practices, parenting styles, and adolescent school achievement. Educational Psychology Review, 17(2), 125-146.

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