Socio-Emotional Competence of New Zealand Children During the Early Years: Its Facilitators/Inhibitors and Outcomes

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dc.contributor.advisor Peterson, Elizabeth Ruth
dc.contributor.advisor Waldie, Karen Elizabeth Ahmad, Sahrish 2021-11-30T23:59:35Z 2021-11-30T23:59:35Z 2021 en
dc.description.abstract Socio-emotional competence is increasingly being identified as an essential life skill. Its importance is often contextualised in terms of better academic achievement and future employability, and it has also been documented to have positive effects on overall well-being. There is growing emphasis on assessing, monitoring and developing socio-emotional competence as early as possible, especially by educators and policy makers. This thesis was interested in three areas. The first was assessing the levels of socio-emotional competence across the first 5 years of a child’s life in a demographically-diverse, population-based sample. Secondly, it focused on understanding how early socio-emotional competence relates to early cognitive outcomes. Finally, drawing on the bioecological model proposed by Bronfenbrenner (1995), predictors of socio-emotional competence both within family and broader contexts were explored. Using data from the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study, the thesis assessed socioemotional competence at 9 months, 2 years and 4.5 years by developing a composite index that drew on various measures of socio-emotional strengths and weaknesses mostly based on mothers’ reports (at these data collection waves (DCWs)). Results showed around two-thirds of children in our sample maintained an average or high socio-emotional competence across early childhood. The stability in levels of socio-emotional competence increased beyond the 2-year mark. In addition, a high degree of flux in the levels of early socio-emotional competence was noted especially when its levels were low during infancy. If children had low socio-emotional competence across 9 months and 2 years, then a little more than two-fifths of them were found to also be low in socio-emotional competence at 4.5 years of age. The results revealed that, on average, children who had persistently low socio-emotional competence across all time points or across the 2- and 4.5-year DCWs were more likely to experience delays in executive function at 4.5 years relative to children with persistent average or high socio-emotional competence. Further, socio-emotional competence at 4.5 years mattered iii more for emergent academic skills in comparison to socio-emotional competence at 2 years; attention and language at 4.5 years also mediated this relationship. On the other hand, socioemotional competence at 9 months was not related to emergent academic skills at 4.5 years of age (directly), while it was negatively associated with attention and language at 4.5 years. In terms of family factors, findings showed that higher mother- and partner-reported parental relationship warmth and engagement with the child was associated with higher socio-emotional competence longitudinally. Generally more and stronger associations were observed for mother reported, as opposed to partner-reported, data. The thesis also identified a few specific maternal behaviours that positively related to socio-emotional competence such as reading books, singing and talking to the child, etc. In addition to familial factors noted, attending childcare and living in neighbourhoods that were perceived negatively, adversely affected socio-emotional competence. We noted that, in general, concurrent contextual factors and proximal processes had more and stronger relationships with socio-emotional competence. Overall, the thesis has several implications for calls to assess and improve socio-emotional competence through prevention and intervention. It suggests that assessing children too early may lead to false positives. Also, that socio-emotional competence close to when a child is about to start school matters more. The thesis provides evidence that simple behaviours, if practised consistently, can enhance socio-emotional competence, and improvement in contextual factors may also lead to improvement in socio-emotional competence.
dc.publisher ResearchSpace@Auckland en
dc.relation.ispartof PhD Thesis - University of Auckland en
dc.relation.isreferencedby UoA en
dc.rights Items in ResearchSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated. en
dc.rights Items in ResearchSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.
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dc.title Socio-Emotional Competence of New Zealand Children During the Early Years: Its Facilitators/Inhibitors and Outcomes
dc.type Thesis en Psychology The University of Auckland en Doctoral en PhD en 2021-11-05T06:24:46Z
dc.rights.holder Copyright: The author en
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