Date of this Version
Published in Early Education and Development 25:7 (2014), pp. 1057–1082
Research Findings: Children’s early academic achievement is supported by positive social and behavioral skills, and difficulties with these skills frequently gives way to underachievement. Social and behavioral problems often arise as a product of parent-child interactional patterns and environmental influences. Few studies have examined the role of a salient aspect of children’s environments, community locale, in the relationship between parenting practices and child outcomes. Using a large, nationally representative sample, we examined whether preschool parenting practices and children’s social-behavioral skills in kindergarten were related to geographic setting (rural vs. city, suburban, and town). Results indicated that rural children experienced greater difficulties with parent-reported externalizing behaviors. Furthermore, rural parents displayed less emotional support than parents in other settings. Preschool parenting behaviors were associated with social skills and behavior problems in kindergarten, as reported by both parents and teachers. Parents’ emotional supportiveness was found to account for the relationship between geographic setting and parent-reported children’s social skills, such that rural parents who provided less emotional support had children with lower social skills in kindergarten. Practice or Policy: Findings of this research indicate that rural children may face particular risk for behavioral issues and highlight the need for increased behavioral supports in rural communities. Moreover, our results suggest that interventions designed to promote parents’ support of children’s emotions may have particular utility for rural families.