Socioeconomic status (SES) is the single most potent determinant of health within human populations, from infancy through old age. Although the social stratification of health is nearly universal, there is persistent uncertainty regarding the dimensions of SES that effect such inequalities and thus little clarity about the principles of intervention by which inequalities might be abated. Guided by animal models of hierarchical organization and the health correlates of subordination, this prospective study examined the partitioning of children's adaptive behavioral development by their positions within kindergarten classroom hierarchies. A sample of 338 5-y-old children was recruited from 29 Berkeley, California public school classrooms. A naturalistic observational measure of social position, parent-reported family SES, and child-reported classroom climate were used in estimating multilevel, random-effects models of children's adaptive behavior at the end of the kindergarten year. Children occupying subordinate positions had significantly more maladaptive behavioral outcomes than their dominant peers. Further, interaction terms revealed that low family SES and female sex magnified, and teachers' child-centered pedagogical practices diminished, the adverse influences of social subordination. Taken together, results suggest that, even within early childhood groups, social stratification is associated with a partitioning of adaptive behavioral outcomes and that the character of larger societal and school structures in which such groups are nested can moderate rank-behavior associations.