Social support trajectories and school outcomes among urban, elementary aged youth
The purpose of this study was to investigate the nature of social support trajectories among urban children during a one-year period and to determine whether these trajectories are associated with school-related adjustment. Conceptualizing support in this way provides important information about the developmental course of disadvantaged children that may not be obtained by analyses examining average changes in support over time. Participants included 402 students attending six elementary schools in an urban, low-economic school district. Students provided ratings of perceived social support from their family, teacher and peers during the fall and spring semesters of 2 nd grade. Teacher ratings of academic competence, grades, and attendance records were collected during the fall and spring of 2nd grade and the spring of 3rd grade. Results indicated that although the majority of participants experienced consistent levels of ongoing perceived support, a substantial portion experienced categorically defined changes in support (i.e., support growth or decay). Membership in these trajectories was not related to gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Planned comparisons indicated that there were no significant differences in school outcomes for any of the family support trajectories. However, when teacher, peer, and cumulative support trajectories were examined, several significant differences emerged. Children who perceived highly supportive relationships at the beginning of the year, followed by decay, demonstrated academic advantages when compared to children who perceived consistently low support. Further, early deficits in supportive relationships were associated with academic disadvantages that persisted, despite support growth. Results also indicated that children who perceived relative support constancy had better school outcomes compared to those who perceived relative growth or decay in support. Together, these findings suggest that children's history of support is associated with a level of academic competence and achievement that endures, at least for a short time, even when supportive resources change. This has important theoretical and practice implications for young children in urban contexts.
Children & youth
0525: Educational psychology
0622: Clinical psychology