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  • Cited by 8
  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: September 2009

8 - The Contribution of Middle Childhood Contexts to Adolescent Achievement and Behavior


American children spend their elementary school years in diverse conditions. For some children, high family incomes provide large houses, safe neighborhoods, and enriching learning opportunities, while for others, middle childhood is a time of economic deprivation. Some children attend safe schools with highly qualified and caring teachers, while others do not. Some children live with both biological parents during middle childhood; others do not. For some children, relationships with their parents are warm and secure, while for others their relationships are distant and conflicted. For surprisingly many children, these conditions change over the course of middle childhood, and change itself influences children's academic and behavior trajectories.

In this chapter, we assess the extent to which the diverse contexts experienced during middle childhood matter for children's subsequent well-being. Given the established importance of early childhood development and preschool family background conditions, the extent to which contexts during the middle childhood years play a role in shaping the course of academic achievement and problem behavior trajectories is far from clear (Bradley & Corwyn, 2003).

Using data from a national sample of over 2,000 children followed from birth until early adolescence, we assess the extent to which middle childhood contexts add to the explanation of adolescents' academic achievement and problem behavior over and above early childhood environments. We address three specific questions. First, how much variation in adolescents' academic achievement and problem behavior is uniquely explained by the contexts they experience in middle childhood?

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