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Attentive Parenting Eases African-American Boys’ Move to Kindergarten

Attentive Parenting Eases African-American Boys' Move to KindergartenThe transition to kindergarten is challenging for many children and may be especially difficult for African-American boys.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina found that parenting affects the academic and social performance of African-American boys as they move from preschool to kindergarten.

“The transition to kindergarten can be challenging for many children due to new expectations, social interactions and physiological changes,” said Iheoma Iruka, Ph.D., the study’s lead author. “Transitions may be even more arduous for African-American boys, given the many challenges they are likely to face compared to their peers.”

However, Iruka said that “previous research has demonstrated that many African-American boys actually transition into kindergarten prepared to learn and excel.”

“In the early years, African-American children, including boys, produce narratives of higher quality and have greater narrative comprehension than their peers–and, once we account for family income, African-American boys outperform other boys.”

Many previous studies of children sampled across ethnic groups have only emphasized the academic or social deficits of African-American boys after entering kindergarten. By concentrating exclusively on these boys, Iruka and her research team hoped to look at a fuller range of experiences and outcomes.

The team studied the transitions of 700 African-American boys by examining family and child characteristics, as well as parenting practices.

Iruka and co-researchers found four patterns for African-American boys after they transitioned—and her team also demonstrated the key role that parenting plays in these outcomes.

Just over half the boys (51 percent) showed increases in language, reading, and math scores in kindergarten, but a sizable group (19 percent) consisted of low achievers in preschool who declined even further academically after transition.

The smallest group (11 percent) included early achievers who declined in kindergarten both academically and behaviorally; by contrast, 20 percent of the boys in the study comprised a group of early achievers who remained on their high-performing academic and social paths after the transition.

According to Iruka, “the results clearly suggest that some African-American boys experience challenges to their academic achievement and social skills as they move into to kindergarten.”

“In addition, the two groups of early achievers is especially revealing about the importance of effective parenting,” she said.

“African-American boys from homes where mothers frequently engaged in literacy activities and intentional teaching–and other activities like playing games and taking the child on errands–were likely to be in the high achieving groups.”

Iruka’s study also showed that parent-child interactions influence whether a high-achieving African-American boy stays on course.

“It’s important to note that the early achievers who declined academically and socially were more likely to be from homes in which the parents were inattentive,” she said.

“The group of boys with detached parents showed a significant decrease in their reading and math scores and an increase in aggression during the preschool-to-kindergarten transition.”

According to Iruka, these results fit well with other research that has shown how important it is for all children across socioeconomic lines to receive responsive parenting that is enriching and cognitively stimulating.

Because of the importance of parenting, Iruka and her co-authors recommend involving parents in academic and social support for children throughout the transition from preschool to kindergarten.

“We believe this time of change requires families and teachers to work together,” she said. “Not only can such partnerships help to ensure the best academic and social outcomes for gifted African-American boys–they can make a difference for all groups of children.”

Source: University of North Carolina

Happy kindergarten boy photo by shutterstock.

Attentive Parenting Eases African-American Boys’ Move to Kindergarten

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Attentive Parenting Eases African-American Boys’ Move to Kindergarten. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 29 Jan 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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