Early Childhood Teachers as Socializers of Young Children's Emotional Competence
Purpose: Young children's emotional competence—expression of useful emotions, regulation of emotional expressiveness when necessary, and knowledge of internal emotions and emotions of others—contributes to their social and pre-academic competence, both concurrently and across time. Emotional competence is socially constructed and maintained. In the social world of preschoolers, both parents and teachers/caregivers loom large. Researchers have explored the contribution of parental socialization of emotion to their children's emotional competence—how they model emotional expressiveness, react to their children's emotions, and intentionally teach their children about emotions. However, not much research is available about how early childhood educators promote such emotional competence, even though their contribution is pivotal in children's subsequent wellbeing and success. The proposed project constitutes a first major effort to move from understanding of parental socialization of emotion to teachers' contributions in the area. The purpose of this study is to examine teachers' emotion socialization methods and children's emotional competence by: (1) exploring teachers' views of emotional competence; (2) examining socialization of emotion and short-term indicators of children's school success; and (3) examining socialization of emotion and long-term school success.
Project Activities: The research team will collect qualitative and quantitative data to examine teacher's emotional expressiveness, beliefs about social-emotional learning, emotional ability, and the types of emotional socialization techniques teachers use in preschool settings. This data will be collected using focus groups, observations of teacher and child behavior, and self-report procedures. The research team will also collect measures of children's emotional competence—children's emotional expression and regulation skills and children's understanding of others' emotions. Preschool teachers will provide ratings of children's social and behavioral skills, and early learning behaviors. Researchers will follow two cohorts of preschool children into kindergarten and collect direct child assessment data and teacher ratings of children's early school success.
Products: The products of this project will include preliminary evidence of the relations among educational outcomes, teachers' emotion socialization methods, and children's emotional competence. Peer-reviewed publications will also be produced.
Setting: This study will take place in preschool and Head Start programs in suburban to rural areas of Virginia.
Population: Participants will include approximately 600 children in 80 classrooms and their parents. Households include a range of income and include Caucasian, African-American, and Hispanic demographic groups. The research team will recruit 50 teachers from private child care and Head Start preschool programs to participate in the year 1 study. The research team will recruit 40 teachers each in years 2 and 3.
Intervention: There is no intervention.
Research Design and Methods: Researchers will use a range of techniques to examine two potentially malleable factors—teachers' emotion socialization practices and children's emotional competence—which are expected to enhance educational outcomes. The researchers will collect teacher-, child-, and parent-level data to answer the following research questions: (1) How do teachers view emotion, socialization of emotion, and children's emotional competence and their role as socializers of emotion; (2) How do teachers' views, observations of their socialization of emotion and self-reported emotional ability relate, given other demographic information; (3) How does teacher emotional ability and view of role and support as an emotion socializer predict self-reported and observed socialization of emotion; (4) How does self-reported and observed teacher socialization of emotion techniques contribute to young children's growth in emotional competence over the preschool year; (5) How does self-reported and observed teacher socialization of emotion contribute to young children's school success concurrently and one year later?
In Year 1, primary data collection will involve: (a) qualitative focus group data from early childhood educators' discussions about the nature of emotions in the early childhood classroom, teacher socialization of emotion, teacher emotional competence, and their relations to children's emotional competence and school success; (b) observational data describing teachers' emotions and reactions to children's emotions during typical instruction; and (c) self-report data on teachers' job stress, their role as socializers of emotional competence, and emotional ability. In Years 2 and 3, primary data collection will include self-reports and observed contributions of teachers' socialization of emotion to children's emotional competence, and short-term school success. These contributions will be evaluated in light of individual predictors of teachers' socialization of emotions (e.g., job stress, emotional ability). The research team will also collect direct child assessment of children's emotional competence (including affect and situational knowledge). Parents will be asked to provide family demographic information and complete a parental emotional socialization measure. In Years 3 and 4, primary data collection will include contributions of preschool teachers' socialization of emotion to children's long-term school success. The researchers will follow the year 2 and year 3 cohorts of children into kindergarten. The kindergarten teachers will be asked to complete an academic rating scale for each child.
Control Condition: There is no control condition.
Key Measures: In Year 1, researchers will conduct focus groups with participating teachers. Classroom observations will also be conducted to observe teachers' own emotions and their reactions to children's emotions. Teachers will be asked to complete a battery of self-report measures in Years 1, 2, and 3. Data will be collected to examine teachers' emotional expressiveness, beliefs about social-emotional learning, emotional ability, and emotional socialization practices. In Year 2, the research team will conduct classroom observations of teachers' own emotion skills and their reactions to children's emotions. They will conduct child assessments of children's emotional competence and cognitive ability and achievement using measures such as Challenging Situations Task (CST) and the Learning Behaviors Scale. Parents will complete a demographic questionnaire and a parental emotional socialization measure. In Year 3, child cognitive and emotional competence assessments will be administered again. In years 3 and 4, kindergarten teachers will complete the ECLS-K Academic Rating Scale for each participating child. Researchers will also administer the Letter-Word Identification and Applied Problems subscales of the Woodcock-Johnson III NU- Tests of Achievement to each child.
Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use descriptive analyses for focus group and qualitative data. In Year 1, researchers will use Ethnograph, a qualitative software, to analyze the focus group data. Members of the research team will conduct quantitative analyses to examine the observational data and teacher self-report measures. Researchers will use reliability analyses, determine correlations, and use analysis of variance for quantitative data. In Years 2, 3, and 4, researchers will use hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) to analyze the data, with structural equations modeling used to examine potential mediators and moderators. To address the relations of role as social-emotional and emotional ability, various analyses will be performed. As preliminary analyses, bivariate correlations will be examined among child variables (e.g., changes on emotion competence scores and their demographic variables), parent socialization of emotion variables, teacher variables (e.g., socialization of emotion scales, job stress, and emotional ability), and between teachers' socialization of emotion scales and the average classroom scores for the child measures. Depending on results from Years 1–3 and preliminary examinations of the correlational structure of teacher socialization of emotion variables, several regression equations may be performed. To address the potential importance of teachers' socialization of emotion on preschoolers' emotional competence, multi-level data analysis techniques such as HLM will be employed. All analyses will be performed as data is collected, but the final form will not be completed until after the end of the second cohort's first data collection, at the end of Year 3.
Denham, S.A. (2015). Assessment of Social-Emotional Learning in Educational Contexts. In J. Durlak, R.W. Weissburg, and T.P. Gullotta (Eds.), The Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning (pp. 285–301). New York: Guilford Press.
Journal article, monograph, or newsletter
Bassett, H.H., Denham, S.A., Fettig, N.B., Curby, T.W., Mohtasham, M., & Austin, N. (2017). Temperament in the Classroom: Children Low in Surgency are More Sensitive to Teachers' Reactions to Emotions. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 41(1): 4–14.
Denham, S.A., Bassett, H.H., and Zinsser, K. (2012). Early Childhood Teachers as Socializers of Young Children's Emotional Competence. Early Childhood Research Journal, 40(3): 137–143.
Ferrier, D.E., Bassett, H.H., and Denham, S.A. (2014). Relations Between Executive Function and Emotionality in Preschoolers: Exploring a Transitive Cognition-Emotion Linkage. Frontiers in Psychology, 5: 487.
Zinsser, K., Denham, S.A., Curby, T.W., and Shewark, E. (2015). "Practice What You Preach": Teachers' Perceptions of Emotional Competence and Emotionally Supportive Classroom Practices. Early Education and Development, 26(7): 899–919.
Zinsser, K., Shewark, E., Denham, S.A., and Curby, T.W. (2014). A Mixed-Method Examination of Preschool Teacher Beliefs About Social-Emotional Learning and Relations to Observed Emotional Support. Infant and Child Development, 23(5): 471–493.
Zinsser, K.M., Curby, T.W., and Ullrich, R. (in press). Head Start Administrators' Perceptions of job Responsibilities and Approaches to Social-Emotional Learning. Early Childhood Research and Practice.
Zinsser, K.M., Denham, S.A., and Curby, T.W. (in press). Being a Social-Emotional Teacher.
Zinsser, K.M., Denham, S.A., Curby, T.W., and Chazan-Cohen, R. (2016). Early Childhood Directors as Socializers of Emotional Climate. Learning Environments Research International, 19(2): 267–290.