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Phonological awareness, vocabulary and internalizing behavior: A closer look at the associations in preschoolers using a structural equation modeling approach.

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2016


This study examined the associations among phonological awareness skills, expressive vocabulary and children’s internalizing behavior within a preschool setting. Method: Ninetyfour children (48 boys, 46 girls) were recruited from 11 schools serving low-income neighborhoods in a large metropolitan city. All children were assessed at the beginning and end of the preschool year using a mixed-methods approach. Children completed standardized assessments of phonological awareness skills and expressive vocabulary. Teacher reports were used to assess children’s internalizing behavior. A structural equation model was estimated to test for moderating effects of children’s sex. Results: The model fit the data well and revealed that poorer phonological awareness skills at the beginning of the year, but not vocabulary, predicted increased internalizing behavior at the end of the year, even after accounting for initial internalizing behavior. The association was moderated by the child’s sex and was significant for boys only. Conclusion: Poorer phonological awareness skills are associated with increased solitary behavior over time, with the association already present in the preschool years. However, the association at this age was only found for boys. These results might suggest that for boys, the academic skill level that they enter into preschool with may exert a small role in their ease of social engagement with peers within a classroom setting.

    Research areas

  • preschool, sex differences, expressive vocabulary, solitary behavior, internalizing behavior, phonological awareness

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