Some of the worst long-term outcomes of children are associated with the presence of both externalizing behavior and low academic achievement. Additionally, trajectories of externalizing problem behavior have shown that when children enter kindergarten with problem behavior, it tends to persist and is often associated with low academic achievement. However, though there remains a popular belief amongst educators that academic achievement and externalizing behavior have a strong predictive and even causal relationship, evidence is mixed. Given the implications for both resource allocation and intervention design if causal associations were supported, this dissertation sought to examine the relationship between the two domains, by (a) systematically reviewing literature in an effort to reveal potential causal relations, if any, and (b) conduct an empirical study using nationally representative data (N=7,330) and latent class growth analysis to reveal relations of early academic achievement with externalizing behavior trajectories based on the findings of the review. Results from both studies indicated that there is no concrete evidence for even predictive relations between achievement and externalizing behavior. Instead, the low achievement often observed in children with high externalizing behavior likely has other underlying causes. Specifically, results suggested that malleable variables like inattention and school readiness behaviors are better predictors of both achievement and teacher reported externalizing behavior. Lastly, this dissertation also revealed that socio-demographic factors like sex and race have strong associations with teacher reported externalizing behavior. Implications for school systems as well as student level interventions are discussed.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2020. Major: Educational Psychology. Advisor: Amanda Sullivan. 1 computer file (PDF); 163 pages.
The Relations between Academic Achievement and Externalizing Behavior: Separating Fact from Fiction.
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