2013. Vol.4, No.11, 787-791
Published Online November 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/psych) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2013.411112
Open Access 787
The Impact of Preschool Social-Emotional Development on
Academic Success of Elementary School Students
Psychology Department, FAMA College, Pristine, Kosovo
Received July 27th, 2013; revised August 26th, 2013; accepted September 25th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Merita Shala. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribu-
tion License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original
work is properly cited.
Social and emotional development is considered as an important factor in child development, especially
considering its importance in child school readiness. Social and emotional development consists of the
relationships an individual has with others, the level of self-control, and the motivation and perseverance
a person has during an activity. This study examined the relationship between children’s preschool social
and emotional development and their academic success in primary school. There were 96 children from
Pristine participating in the study, 28 of them in the first grade, 32 in the second grade, 15 in the third
grade and 21 in the fourth grade. To determine the relationship between children’s social and emotional
development, during their preschool years, the ELDS assessment form was used, while for their academic
achievements in each grade, the ELDS assessment form was used for their grades in two subjects. Several
hierarchical regressions were used to determine the relationship between children’s social and emotional
development, during their preschool years and their academic success. The results of this study revealed
that the social and emotional development showed significant predictive value for the first, second and
third grade criterion variables. While for the fourth grade, there was no significant predictive value.
Keywords: Social-Emotional Development; Academic Success; School Readiness
Children entering school now are expected to come with the
prerequisite skills for early literacy and math and the social
maturity to comply with school routines. Some of them enter
school with all of these skills and the disposition to use them.
Others do not. One important reason for these variations in
social competence rests in the quality of children’s preschool
Decades of research show that high-quality early childhood
programs are linked to greater social-emotional competence
(Campbell, Ramey, Pungello, Sparling, & Miller-Johnson, 2002;
Schweinhart & Weikart, 1997). High-quality programs are
identified as those in which children learn many of the social
skills that help them participate in a group as a cooperative
member and learn to use adults to gain information and assis-
Most preschool curricula focus primarily on building the
child’s cognitive skills. However, social-emotional skill deficits
impact a student’s academic performance, and remain a some-
times-overlooked characteristic of young children’s transition
to grade school (Child Trends, 2002; LaParo & Pianta, 2000).
In fact, school readiness is typically defined in terms of a
child’s cognitive skills, but also includes the child’s capacity to
regulate emotions and be able to show positive social interac-
tions and cooperation in the classroom.
Despite the quality of children’s earlier experiences, they
come to school together and the teacher must develop this
group of diverse learners into a community of respectful, moti-
Social-Em o tional Development
Social and emotional development in children has to do with
how children feel about themselves (such as confidence, always
scared, eager to learn, proud of their culture, afraid of being
wrong), how they behave (such as constantly fighting, easily
upset, able to deal with conflict), and how they relate to others,
especially people who matter to them (for example, parents,
teachers, and friends).
Social-emotional development includes the emergence of
emotional self-regulation, empathy, effective communication,
positive social interaction, and social independence. Typically
social-emotional development is divided into three main areas:
attachment, initiative and self-control, also known as self-re-
Initiative is defined as a psychological feature that entices a
person to achieve a desired goal (LeBuffe & Naglieri, 1998).
Self-regulation is the process in which a person controls his or
her own behavior through internal executive functions. Atta-
chment is defined as a deep and enduring emotional bond that
connects one person to another across time and space (Ains-
worth, 1973; Bowlby, 1969).
While a child’s innate temperament matters, much of social
behavior is learned. Children learn social behaviours and norms
from interactions with parents, caregivers, siblings and peers
(Emde, 1998; Harris, 1995). Studies of “prosocial” behaviours
in childhood show that when such behavior is modeled by
adults, it is learned at an earlier age (Eisenberg & Mussen,
1989). A two-year-old child can be socialised to display em-
pathy towards others, adjust their responses to others’ emotio-
nal expressions (social referencing), and try to make others feel
better following a negative event (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000;
Thompson, 1998). Children in preschool (four or five years old)
must acquire understanding of emotions, and become more ca-
pable for managing their feelings.
Social-Emotional Development and School
School readiness is typically defined in terms of a child’s
cognitive skills, but also includes the child’s capacity to regu-
late emotions and be able to show positive social interactions
and cooperation in the classroom. The current emphasis on chil-
dren’s academic preparedness continues to overshadow the im-
portance of children’s social and emotional development for
school readiness (Raver & Zigler, 1997). Over the past 20 years,
researches have demonstrated that children’s emotional and so-
cial skills are linked to their early academic standing (Wentzel
& Asher, 1995). Children with difficulties paying attention, fol-
lowing directions, getting along with others, and controlling ne-
gative emotions of anger and distress do less well in school
(McClelland et al., 2000). For many children, academic achieve-
ment in their first few years of schooling appears to be built on
a firm foundation of children’s emotional and social skills
(Ladd, Kochenderfer, & Coleman, 1997; O’Neil et al., 1997).
Science has established a compelling link between social-
emotional development and behavior and school success (Raver,
2002; Zins, Bloodworth, Weissberg, & Walberg, 2004). Young
children cannot learn to read if they have problems that distract
them from educational activities, problems following directions,
problems getting along with others and controlling negative
emotions, and problems that interfere with relationships with
peers, teachers, and parents.
Social-Emo t i o n al Deve lopment and Academic
According to Howes, Hamilton, & Philipsen (1998), norma-
tively, first friendships are established during the preschool
years. The acquisition of prosocial friendship skills (such as
helping, sharing, and taking turns) during preschool predict kin-
dergarten and later elementary school engagement and aca-
demic success (Howes et al., 1998).
Also, prosocial behavior may foster positive relationships
with teachers and peers, thereby motivating school bonding and
creating feelings of social-emotional security and comfort in the
classroom that support exploration and thereby enhance learn-
ing (Coolahan et al., 2000; Konold & Pianta, 2005).
Social-emotional skills include: emotional regulation; de-
veloping skills to communicate about emotions and resolve/
avoid conflicts, showing empathy, demonstrating positive inte-
ractions and classroom cooperation, and the ability to take di-
rections and conform to behavior norms expected in the class-
room. Children learn self-monitoring and deliberate inhibition
of undesired behaviours (Saarni, Mumme, & Campos, 1998;
Sroufe, 1996). Those children who are delayed in the develop-
ment of social-emotional skills exhibit academic and behavi-
oural problems (Blair, 2002; Connell & Prinz, 2002; Denham,
2006; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000).
This is a correlational study, with the main aim to determine
the relationships between the students’ pre-kindergarten social
and emotional development and their academic success in first,
second, third and fourth grade of elementary school.
A total of 96 primary school students participated in this
study. During the last four years they attended a public pre-
school program. In 2012, 28 of them have completed first grade,
32 have completed second grade, 15 students have completed
third grade and 21 students have completed fourth grade. For
children’s participation in the study parent’s agreement was ob-
ELDS Assessment F orm
At the end of each school year, preschool teachers completed
an evaluation form for the achievement of each child during the
year. The content of that evaluation form, for social-emotional
development, was compared and adopted with the content of
the field of social-emotional development of ELDS, recently
developed and published. We estimate children social-emotio-
nal development with grades of E (excellent = 3), S (satisfacto-
ry = 2), or N (needs improvement = 1) of 24 observed behav-
iors, divided into five factors: 1-differentiations between known
and unknown people (DKNP-Cronbach a = .72), 2-interaction
with the persons around (IPA-Cronbach a = .85), 3-experience,
recognise and properly express emotions (ER-PEE-Cronbach a
= .65), 4-demonstrate that she/he knows the concept of her/him
self (DKCHS-Cronbach a = .67), 5-ability of self-regulation of
emotions (ASRE-Cronbach a = .70).
The students’ grades at the end of each academic year, from
first to fourth grade, were also used to assess their academic
success. Academic grades consisted in student’s performance
during the whole school year. Students received grades in ma-
thematics and Albanian language (reading and writing).
The method of linear regression analysis was used, in order
to evaluate how well social and emotional development in pre-
kindergarten predicts academic success from kindergarten until
fourth grade. A specific child code for the identification of in-
formation was used. The statistical package used in the present
study is SPSS Ver. 19.0.
There were a series of multiple regressions used in this study
to determine the relationship between the social and emotional
factors and student academic success from preschool through
grade four. Several hierarchical regressions were performed be-
tween the five social-emotional factors, measured in preschool,
as the predictor variables and academic grades, (scores) as the
We used separate regressions for each academic grade in Al-
banian language (reading and writing) and mathematics from
preschool to fourth grade, to see the extent to which social-
emotional factors may have influence (impact) on academic
success throughout the years.
The results of Table 1 show a great impact of social-emo-
tional factors such as interaction with the persons around (IPA),
experience, recognize and express emotions properly (ERPEE),
and the ability of self-regulate emotions (ASRE) on academic
success in the first grade.
In Table 2, results show that emotional factors such as in-
teraction with the persons around (IPA) and the ability of self-
regulate emotions (ASRE), can predict later academic success
for students in the second grade. There are almost the same re-
sults within the third grade, presented in Table 3, where factors
like experiences recognize and express emotions properly (ER-
PEE) and the ability of self-regulate emotions (ASRE), show
high relationship level with academic success, while in Table 4,
show no significant correlations between social-emotional de-
velopment and academic success.
The main aim of this study was to determine the relation-
ships between prekindergarten students’ social and emotional
development and later academic achievement, using the multi-
ple regressions. Based on the results of separated multiple re-
gressions analysis for each grade, it is obvious that there is a
greater association between social-emotional development and
academic achievement in elementary school, especially during
the first three years. According to our results, there were no
significant correlations between social-emotional development
Multiple regressions for variables predicting first grade success.
BETA St.Err. BETA BSt.Err. of B t p-level
DKND .13 .12 .20 .18 1.13.27
IPA .29 .13 .39 .17 2.18*.03*
ERPEE .44 .12 .73 .21 3.43*.00*
DKCHS .21 .13 .34 .22 1.57.13
ASRE .44 .13 .69 .21 3.16*.00*
R = .84 R2 = .70
Note: *p < .05.
Multiple regressions for variables predicting second grade success.
BETA St.Err. BETA B St.Err. of B t p-level
DKND −.12 .15 −.18 .22 −.80.42
IPA .50 .16 .80 .25 3.13*.00*
ERPEE −.28 .15 −.41 .22 −1.84.07
DKCHS .14 .14 .23 .23 1.00.32
ASRE .72 .15 1.17 .25 4.71*.00*
R = .74 R2 = .54
Note: *p < .05.
Multiple regressions for variables predicting third grade success.
BETASt.Err. BETAB St.Err. of B t p-level
DKND.39 .28 .51 .36 1.39.19
IPA .18 .26 .24 .34 .71.48
ERPEE.87 .24 1.27 .35 3.57*.00*
DKCHS.33 .24 .51 .37 1.37.20
ASRE.84 .36 1.21 .52 2.29*.04*
R = .78 R2 = .61
Note: *p < .05.
Multiple regressions for variables predicting fourth grade success.
BETASt.Err. BETAB St.Err. of B t p-level
DKND −.01 .25 −.02 .32 −.06.94
IPA −.15 .24 −.20 .31 −.64.52
ERPEE.30 .24 .39 .32 1.24.23
DKCHS.16 .25 .22 .35 .66.51
ASRE.13 .25 .18 .34 .55.58
R = .35 R2 = .12
Note: *p < .05.
and academic success in the fourth grade. This may have sev-
eral reasons. One of them could be due to the fact that students
were assessed almost three years ago and during this time their
social-emotional development may have been affected by chang-
es in a child’s environment. Another reason could be the tea-
cher and class environment. Teachers promote specific skills,
including anger management, behavioural self-control and ex-
pressive language capacity, which helps to avoid problem be-
haviours that interfere with children’s learning and reinforce the
basic rules of positive school conduct (Rimm-Kaufmann, La
Paro, Downer, & Pianta, 2005; Dockett & Perry, 2003).
While regarding the association between social-emotional
development and academic achievement in elementary school,
our findings are similar to the findings of previous research
which found that social and emotional development can predict
later academic success (Agostin & Bain, 1997; Burchinal, Peis-
ner-Feinberg, Pianta, & Howes, 2002; Normandeau & Guay,
1998; Pianta & Harbers, 1996; Shoda, Mischel, & Peake, 1990;
Slaughter-Defoe & Rubin, 2001; Smith & Walden, 2001; Sti-
pek, 1993; Reynolds, 1989; Turner & Johnson, 2003; O’Connor
& McCartney, 2007).
Children need a combination of intellectual skills, motiva-
tional qualities, and social-emotional skills to succeed in school
(Thompson, 2002). With regard to that, Greenberg et al (2003),
states that learning social and emotional skills is similar to
learning other academic skills in that the effects of initial learn-
ing are enhanced over time to address the increasingly complex
situations children face regarding academic achievement, social
relationships, citizenship and health. In addition, several reviews
found evidence of greater effectiveness in the early years (ages
Open Access 789
2 - 7) than in older children (Tennant et al., 2007; Browne et al.,
2004). “Learning is a social process” (Zins et al., 2004), and if
we expect children to enter school “ready to learn” they must
have the underlying security and emotional foundation for that
learning. Social-emotional development is too important to be
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