Socio-emotional skills, behavior problems, and Spanish competence predict the acquisition of English among English language learners in poverty

Dev Psychol. 2014 Sep;50(9):2242-54. doi: 10.1037/a0037161. Epub 2014 Jun 9.


This article analyzes the role that individual differences in children's cognitive, Spanish competence, and socio-emotional and behavioral skills play in predicting the concurrent and longitudinal acquisition of English among a large sample of ethnically diverse, low-income, Hispanic preschool children. Participants assessed at age 4 for language, cognitive, socio-emotional, and behavioral skills were followed through kindergarten. Multivariate analyses demonstrated that Spanish-speaking preschoolers with greater initiative, self-control, and attachment and fewer behavior problems at age 4 were more successful in obtaining English proficiency by the end of kindergarten compared to those initially weaker in these skills, even after controlling for cognitive/language skills and demographic variables. Also, greater facility in Spanish at age 4 predicted the attainment of English proficiency. Social and behavioral skills and proficiency in Spanish are valuable resources for low-income English language learners during their transition to school.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition
  • Emotional Intelligence*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology
  • Humans
  • Language Development*
  • Language Tests
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Multilingualism*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Schools
  • Social Skills*