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The Influence of English Proficiency on Social Adjustment in Preschool English Language Learners

Yanjie Long, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Social-emotional adjustment in early childhood has been associated with later social development and academic achievement. Language proficiency is a central tool for building social relationships and managing emotions. Limited English proficiency in early childhood may pose challenges for children’s social-emotional development. This study used secondary data from the Head Start Impact Study to examine the influence of English proficiency on ELL children’s internalizing and externalizing behaviors during preschool. In addition, this study examined the roles of parent involvement and teacher-child relationships in predicting ELL children’s social-emotional adjustment. 295 ELLs and 935 non-ELLs were selected to analyze for this study. Overall, analyses revealed that Oral comprehension inversely predicted internalizing behaviors and one externalizing behavior, aggressive adjustment problems, in all children. Oral comprehension inversely predicted internalizing behaviors in ELLs and predicted internalizing behaviors and most externalizing behaviors, except oppositional adjustment behaviors, in non-ELLs. Receptive vocabulary inversely predicted internalizing behaviors in all children. Parental involvement attenuated the influence of limited English proficiency on withdrawn/low energy for non-ELLs and aggressive adjustment problems on ELLs. Children who were closer to teachers were more likely to show fewer internalizing and externalizing behaviors in general. Different patterns were found in subgroups that closeness inversely predicted internalizing behaviors, but not externalizing behaviors in ELL children, while in non-ELL children, closeness predicted both. Conflict between teacher and children predicted both internalizing and externalizing behaviors positively in all children, as well as in each subgroup. However, closeness and conflict of teacher-child relationship did not moderate the association between English language proficiency and social-emotional adjustment. Limitations, implications of results, and future research directions were discussed.

Subject Area

Early childhood education

Recommended Citation

Long, Yanjie, "The Influence of English Proficiency on Social Adjustment in Preschool English Language Learners" (2017). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10683870.