Investigating the relationship between social behaviors and phonological awareness in preschool children

Lisa-Christine Girard, Luigi Girolametto

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This study examined the longitudinal effects of social behaviors in predicting phonological awareness outcomes in 4-year-old children.


One hundred two children (52 boys, 50 girls) were recruited from 11 schools serving low-income neighborhoods in a large metropolitan city and were assessed at the beginning and end of the preschool year. All children received assessments of their phonological awareness skills, expressive vocabulary, non-verbal IQ, and teachers completed behavioral ratings at pretest. At the end of the academic year, children participated in tests of phonological awareness using standardized assessments.


The results of a multiple regression analysis indicated that being excluded by peers contributed up to 3% of the variance in negatively predicting phonological awareness outcomes after controlling for initial phonological awareness skills, expressive vocabulary, and cognition which is a small effect size.


Early peer exclusion can impact negatively on the acquisition of phonological awareness skills in 4-year-old children in preschool. The results of this study suggest that a child's overall behavioral competence and how they are treated by the peer group may play an important role in their ease of academic skill attainment. Given the link between peer exclusion and difficulties with phonological awareness outcomes, additional professional development programs that provide teachers with strategies to create inclusive classrooms may be warranted in preventing against the emergence of maladaptive behaviors at first entry into formal schooling.


► Social behaviors may impact upon preschooler's phonological awareness skills (PA). ► Exclusion by peers was found to negatively predicted PA skills across the year. ► Results suggest the importance of inclusive classrooms on early PA development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-130
JournalJournal of applied developmental psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013


  • social behavior
  • peer exclusion
  • phonological awareness
  • emergent literacy
  • early childhood


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