Children’s Self-Report About Their Social-Emotional Development from Third to Fifth Grade: Findings from the ECLS-K
This paper uses longitudinal self-report data from a nationally representative data set to explore the relationships between self-perceptions of peer relationships and problem behaviors measured at the end of the third and fifth grades and various socio-demographic characteristics and academic performance. Analyses look at children’s social-emotional self-perceptions at the end of the fifth grade as well as how these perceptions have changed during these later elementary school years.
The relationship between academic success and healthy social and emotional development is well established. Children who enjoy successful relationships with their peers and teachers are most likely to succeed academically and this relationship is maintained throughout the school years. The relationship is reciprocal – children who experience school failure tend to act out or exhibit other maladaptive behaviors, and children with disruptive or troubling behaviors can alienate themselves from peers and teachers and end up excluded from many learning opportunities that come from positive relationships.
The transition from elementary school to middle school years can be a critical period for social and emotional development. This is the juncture where some children’s feelings about themselves in relation to their peers markedly decline, and the time for some when socially inappropriate behaviors such as fighting, or internal feelings of anxiety or depression become impediments to healthy development.
This paper describes children’s perceptions of their social-emotional development in the period that for many children immediately precedes the transition to middle school – right at the end of fifth grade.
Additionally, the changes in development from the end of third grade to the end of fifth grade are examined to describe the trajectory of development as children enter the middle school years. Overall self-perceptions are examined, as well as differences among children from different socio-demographic backgrounds and for children with different academic abilities.