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Proximal processes in the school readiness of Head Start children from immigrant families: Contributions of region of origin and the home learning environment

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The home environment, which includes parents' engagement in children's home learning experiences and preacademic stimulation, has important consequences for children's acquisition of early academic skills, and although children of immigrants represent the fastest growing group of children in the U.S., little is known about their early learning contexts. The goal of the current study was to examine the mediating influence of the home learning environment on the relationship between parental region of origin and the school readiness of immigrant children upon entry into Head Start. Data for this study were drawn from the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey of 2009 (FACES 2009), a national multisource study of Head Start children and their families. Structural equation modeling was used to estimate relationships between parental region of origin, the home learning environment, and children's baseline cognitive, social-emotional, and executive functioning school readiness skills. Results indicated that while children of Mexican, South American, Caribbean, and Asian descent had lower cognitive skills than children whose parents were from the U.S., children of immigrants were not significantly different in overall social-emotional competencies than non-immigrant children. Children whose parents were Mexican and South American performed lower on a task of executive functioning than U.S. children. Although children of immigrants had less stimulating home learning environments than children of non-immigrants on average, children of immigrants had more enrichment experiences in the home than non-immigrants. This specifically applied to children of Mexican, Central American, South American, African, and Asian descent. After including model modifications, the home learning environment was found to mediate the relationship between region of origin and cognitive skills and social-emotional competencies. Findings suggest that although children of immigrants in Head Start are at increased risks in cognitive domains of development, and although some immigrant subgroups are more socio-economically and educationally disadvantaged than other Head Start participants, their social-emotional competencies are on par with those of their counterparts. The fact that children of immigrants had more enrichment experiences in the home despite having had overall less stimulating home learning environments provides promising directions for future research. Findings were discussed in the context of ecological and ecocultural theories. (author abstract)
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Reports & Papers
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United States

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