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Social-Emotional Development and
Behavioral Issues


(links to source documents are in the postings below)

1. Overview of Early Childhood Emotional and Behavioral Problems and Effective Programs -            American Academy of Pediatrics 

2. Evidence Based Programs That Reduce Existing Behavioral Problems - American Academy of        Pediatrics 

3. Reducing Problem Behaviors in Early Childhood: What Works -- Child Trends

4. Bullies in the Block Area: The Early Childhood Origins of "Mean" Behavior -- Child Trends

5. Measuring Elementary School Students' Social and Emotional Skills - Child Trends

6. Development of Early Profiles of Temperament Characterization, Continuity and Etiology -            NCBI

7. How Life Outside of School Affects Student Performance in School -- Brookings Institute

8. Child Maltreatment Data Report 2017 - U.S. DHHS

9. New York Social Emotional Learning:  A Guide to Systematic Whole School Implementation         (March 2019) - NYSED

10. Socioemotional Learning Standards and Protective Environment for Whole Child                            Development Rockefeller Institute of Government, SUNY  (May 2019)

11.  A Review of Social-Emotional Measures - U.S. Department of Education (October 2019) 

An Overview of Early Childhood
Emotional and Behavioral Problems and Effective Programs
 American Academy of Pediatrics 
Post #1
Addressing Early Childhood Emotional Beh

More than 10% of young children experience clinically significant mental health problems, with rates of impairment and persistence comparable to those seen in older children. This technical report reviews the data supporting treatments for young children with emotional, behavioral, and relationship problems and supports the policy statement of the same name.

At least 8% to 10% of children younger than 5 years experience clinically significant and impairing mental health problems, which include emotional, behavioral, and social relationship problems.  An additional 1.5% of children have an autism spectrum disorder, the management of which has been reviewed in a separate report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Children with emotional, behavioral, and social relationship problems (“mental health problems”), as well as their families, experience distress and can suffer substantially because of these problems. These children may demonstrate impairment across multiple domains, including social interactions, problematic parent–child relationships, physical safety, inability to participate in child care without expulsion, delayed school readiness, school problems, and physical health problems in adulthood.

These clinical presentations can be distinguished from the emotional and behavioral patterns of typically developing children by their symptoms, family history, and level of impairment and, in some disorders, physiologic signs. Emotional, behavioral, and relationship disorders rarely are transient and often have lasting effects, including measurable differences in brain functioning in school-aged children and a high risk of later mental health problems.

Exposure to Toxic Stressors 

Exposure to toxic stressors, such as maltreatment or violence, and individual, family, or community stressors can increase the risk of early-onset mental health problems, although such stressors are not necessary for the development of these problems. Early exposure to adversity also has notable effects on the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and epigenetic processes, with short-term and long-term consequences in physical and mental health, including adult cardiovascular disease and obesity.

In short, young children’s early emotional, behavioral, and social relationship problems can cause suffering for young children and families, weaken the developing foundation of emotional and behavioral health, and have the potential for long-term adverse consequences.

An extensive review of established prevention programs for the general population and identified children at high risk are described in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s National Report of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (

Outcomes of these programs highlight the value of early intervention and the potential to improve parenting skills using universal or targeted approaches for children at risk. The programs use a variety of approaches, including home visiting, parent groups, targeted addressing of basic needs, and videos to enhance parental self-reflection skills and have demonstrated a range of outcomes related to positive emotional, behavioral, and relationship development. One model developed specifically for the pediatric primary care setting is the Video Interaction Project, in which parents are paired with a bachelor’s-level or master’s-level developmental specialist who uses video and educational techniques to support parents’ awareness of their child’s developmental needs.

Evidence-Based Interventions
Shown to Reduce Existing Disruptive Behaviors in Preschoolers 
American Academy of Pediatrics
Post #2
Programs reduce existing behavior Proble
Programs reduce existing behavior proble
Post #3
What Works Problem Behaviors.png

Overview: Problem behaviors in early childhood (birth to five) are associated with poor outcomes in adolescence and adulthood, including delinquency, engagement in criminal activity and violence, and depression (Bornstein, Hahn, & Haynes, 2010; Liu, 2004; O’Connell, Boat, & Warner, 2009). These problem behaviors can be externalizing or internalizing.

Externalizing behaviors are directed outward and include aggression, disruptive behavior, and oppositional defiance; internalizing behaviors are directed inward and include withdrawal, anxiety, or depression.

This research brief synthesizes experimental evaluations of 50 programs. The evaluations assessed program impacts on externalizing behaviors and/or internalizing behaviors among children ages birth to five. Evaluations of 27 programs assessed externalizing behaviors exclusively; 22 program evaluations assessed both externalizing and internalizing behaviors; and one assessed internalizing behaviors exclusively. Most of the evaluations focused on preschool children, or those ages 3 -5.

Key Finding:  Overall, 35 of the 50 programs were found to have positive (that is, beneficial) and statistically significant (p <.5) impacts on either externalizing or internalizing behaviors. 

A slightly higher proportion of positive significant impacts were found for externalizing behaviors (63 percent of programs worked) than for internalizing behaviors (52 percent of programs worked).

Positive, significant impacts on externalizing behaviors were more frequent when programs:

  • provided specific training to parents or teachers, or delivered programming using multiple approaches;

  • were based in preschools;

  • used trained facilitators, or therapists to deliver the programs; and/or

  • had a standardized curriculum

Bullies in the Block Area:
The Early Childhood Origins of "Mean" Behavior
Post #4
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Executive Summary

Bullying can pose a serious threat to children’s immediate and long-term health and well-being, and can have profound impacts on all children involved in bullying behaviors, whether as the one bullying others, the one being bullied, or the one witnessing bullying. At least some of the roots of bullying behaviors, and conversely the roots of positive pro-social skills, can likely be found in adverse and positive experiences during early childhood, yet the research literature on these connections is limited. The early childhood field lacks a coherent, theoretical model that identifies the factors contributing to “mean” or aggressive behavior in young children, and establishes the developmental link between this early behavior and later bullying behavior.


This white paper summarizes the literature on seven key hypotheses about the roots of bullying behavior in early childhood experiences. There is a substantial body of evidence lending support to the following theories:

  • Parenting behavior and characteristics, particularly parenting style, parental involvement, and engagement are related to the development of “mean” or aggressive behaviors. However, the majority of research has focused on the role of mothers rather than fathers.

  • Early childhood maltreatment, such as physical abuse, is a significant predictor for involvement in bullying, both as the target and as the aggressor. Early and persistent maltreatment is also shown to physically alter the structure of a child’s brain, which can lead to developmental deficits, including in social and emotional domains.

  • The quantity and content of television media exposure have been linked to both the development of bullying behaviors as well as pro-social skills. Increased exposure to media, including media that is not inherently violent, has been linked to increases in bullying behavior. Conversely, exposure to television shows, such as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood or Sesame Street, which are specifically designed to focus on pro-social skills, has been shown to increase these behaviors in young children.

Evidence is limited and/or mixed for the connection between bullying behaviors and caregiver-child attachment, the influence of early care and education settings, the effects of early exposure to bias and prejudice, and other environmental factors such as peers or socioeconomic status. Further research would enable us to better understand how these factors contribute to development of bullying behaviors from early childhood.

Post #5
Measuring Students Social Emotional Skil

Mounting evidence from the field’s research points to social and emotional skills as playing a central role in shaping student achievement, workplace readiness, and adult wellbeing (See, Chien, Harbin et al. 2012; Delale-O'Connor, Farley et al. 2012; Guzman, Caal et al. 2014). In the last 20 years, volumes of research have been published documenting and quantifying the importance of social and emotional learning in creating better outcomes for children. More and more, schools and youth-serving organizations are seeking ways to effectively integrate social and emotional learning into their classrooms and programs.

But as of yet, the development of consistent standards, measures, and tools to support schools and organizations in measuring and monitoring these skills remains a need in the field. In 2012, the Tauck Family Foundation adopted a new mission that seeks to address this need: to invest in the development of social and emotional skills that lead to better prospects for children from low-income families in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Specifically, the Foundation seeks to focus on skills that research shows are malleable (can be taught and learned) and will help students:

  • manage their emotions and behaviors effectively,

  • persist toward their goals,

  • value learning for its own sake,

  • effectively interact and cooperate with others, and

  • believe that they are capable of achieving academically.

Child Trends’ and the Foundation’s primary goal was to create tools that the Foundation’s investees could use to assess and monitor the extent to which the organizations are improving low-income students’ social and emotional skills associated with success in school and life.

A secondary goal was to provide these tools and related guidance to other educators across the country who share a desire to strengthen students’ social and emotional skills as a strategy for supporting their success.

Five Key Social and Emotional Skills:  As described above, a series of reviews of the existing research studies revealed five competencies and skills that help students excel in school over time:

   1.  Self-control,

   2.  Persistence,

   3.  Mastery orientation,

   4.  Academic self-efficacy, and

   5.  Social competence.


Development of Early Profiles of Temperament
Characterization, Continuity and Etiology 
Post #6
Development of Early Temperament Profile

This study used a data-driven, person-centered approach to examine the characterization, continuity, and etiology of child temperament from infancy to toddlerhood. Data from 561 families who participated in an ongoing prospective adoption study, the Early Growth and Development Study, were used to estimate latent profiles of temperament at 9, 18, and 27 months. Results indicated that four profiles of temperament best fit the data at all three points of assessment. The characterization of profiles was stable over time while membership in profiles changed across age. Facets of adoptive parent and birth mother personality were predictive of children’s profile membership at each age, providing preliminary evidence for specific environmental and genetic influences on patterns of temperament development from infancy to toddlerhood.

The structure and characterization of all four temperament profiles, Positive Reactive, Negative Reactive, Fearful, and Active Reactive may reflect individual differences in how children transition from more biologically based, reactivity profiles at age 9 months to behavioral tendencies related to the development of the behavioral approach and behavioral inhibition systems (BAS/BIS; Gray, 1994) that are evident at age 18 and 27 months.

The high levels of activity and anger found in the Negative Reactive profile may be indicative of children who are more actively seeking out goals, and who respond with anger when those goals are thwarted. Approach and anger are often associated in temperament research (Deater-Deckard et al., 2010) and are components of a more dominant BAS (Gray, 1994). The Positive Reactive profile’s combination of high positive affect, engagement/approach, and lower levels of fear parallel the exuberant or uninhibited temperament type, while the low levels of activity level and anger do not (Stifter et al., 2008).

Contrasting the active reactive and positive reactive profiles provides an example for the importance of considering the full constellation of temperament dimensions, as both profiles are characterized by low levels of fear and high levels of pleasure while the combination of differences in activity level, anger, and engagement/approach between the two profiles suggests they are distinct.

Post #7
Life Outside School Affects Student Perf

This report presents findings from a unique partnership between the University of Michigan and the State that allowed us to match the universe of child maltreatment records in Michigan with educational data on all public school children in the state.

We find that roughly 18% percent of third-grade students have been subject to at least one formal investigation for child maltreatment. In some schools, more than 50% of third graders have experienced an investigation for maltreatment. These estimates indicate that child abuse and neglect cannot simply be treated like a secondary issue, but must be a central concern of school personnel.

In recent years, policymakers have paid increasing attention to the many ways in which factors beyond school influence a child’s educational outcomes. Indeed, recent research finds that the “poverty” achievement gap – that is, the difference in academic achievement between poor and non-poor children – has grown faster than the racial achievement gap. But there is less widespread recognition of the severe traumas that children can face, including homelessness, domestic violence, parental drug abuse, neglect and physical or sexual abuse.


Such trauma is consistently linked to a broad variety of negative life circumstances including poverty, juvenile delinquency, adult crime, low academic achievement, substance abuse, mental disorders and poor health. The consequences of early childhood trauma have serious implications for not only the victims, but also families, schools and communities.


The academic struggles of youth in the foster care system have received growing attention. And recent work highlights the needs of another group of young people who experience trauma – those who are homeless.  However, only 4% of children with reports of abuse or neglect end up in foster care.


Our work focused on answering the following questions:

  1. What is the prevalence of child maltreatment investigations (for abuse or neglect) in the public school population by the time students reach third grade?

  2. Does the risk of maltreatment differ by student race, gender, socioeconomic status or geographic location?

  3. What is the association between maltreatment and academic performance?

Finding #1: Approximately 18% of Michigan third graders have been formally investigated by Child Protective Services (CPS) for possible exposure to maltreatment.

Finding #2: African American students, students who qualify for free/reduced lunch (i.e. poor students), students living in relatively high-poverty areas, and students attending urban schools are all more likely to be investigated by Child Protective Services for suspected child maltreatment.


Finding #3:  Early childhood maltreatment is associated with significantly lower academic outcomes, even after we control for school, neighborhood, race and other key demographics.

Finding #4:  Referral rates vary dramatically across districts, and even across schools within the same district. It is not unusual for one-third of students in high-poverty schools to have been investigated for abuse or neglect.

Michigan Student CPS Reports Brookings.P

Child Maltreatment Report 2017 – Federal Report

Child Maltreatment 2017 is the 28th edition of the annual Child Maltreatment report series. States provide the data for this report through the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS). Key findings in this report include:

■ The national rounded number of children who received a child protective services investigation response or alternative response increased 10.0 percent from 2013 (3,184,000) to 2017 (3,501,000).

■ The number and rate of victims have fluctuated during the past 5 years. Comparing the national rounded number of victims from 2013 (656,000) to the national rounded number of victims in 2017 (674,000) shows an increase of 2.7 percent.

■ The 2017 data show three-quarters (74.9%) of victims are neglected, 18.3 percent are physically abused, and 8.6 percent are sexually abused. These victims may suffer a single maltreatment type or a combination of two or more maltreatment types.

■ For 2017, an estimated 1,720 children died of abuse and neglect at a rate of 2.32 per 100,000 children in the national population

Maltreatment 2017 Report.PNG
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New York Social Emotional Learning: A Guide to Systematic Whole School Implementation
Post #9
April 13, 2019
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Rockefeller Institute of Government  Social-Emotional Learning Standards (May 2019) 
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May 10, 2019 

A new report from the Rockefeller Institute of Government examines student outcomes in selected states that have adopted socioemotional learning (SEL) standards, including New York, and sets forth several policy recommendations for developing and implementing more effective SEL standards.

"New York State has recently developed K-12 SEL benchmarks for voluntary adoption by school districts, trailing early statewide adopters which use SEL standards for school improvement and accountability. New York State also lags behind other state leaders in terms of creating protective environments and advancing child well-being."

"Socioemotional learning standards specify what students should know beyond academic skills and knowledge for a successful personal and social life. Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which allows state policymakers to redesign educational accountability systems and incorporate nonacademic measures, several states have adopted socioemotional standards as part of their education accountability models. New York added SEL benchmarks for grades K-12 in August 2018."

The report finds that while higher levels of socioemotional well-being are associated with higher levels of academic proficiency, there is so far no indication that state SEL standards have affected learning outcomes, though many states are still in the early stages of implementation.

A review of instruments for measuring social and emotional learning skills among secondary school students
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This resource was designed to support state and local education agencies in identifying reliable and valid instruments for measuring collaboration, perseverance, and self-regulated learning among secondary school students. (Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015)

However, researchers have not reached consensus on the best ways to measure social and emotional learning skills or the appropriate uses of existing instruments (see, for example, Duckworth & Yeager, 2015)

In total, 16 instruments were assessed to be eligible for inclusion in the resource. The initial search yielded 67 instruments as possible measures of one or more of the social and emotional learning skills of interest.

Among the 16 instruments identified, 11 were developed for use in research and 5 for formative instruction. None of the information collected suggested that the instruments should be used for summative purposes. With schools and districts ramping up efforts to measure social and emotional learning skills for formative and summative use, practitioners would benefit from the development of additional instruments for these purposes. Likewise, additional work is needed to better understand whether existing instruments that were not specifically developed for formative or summative purposes can be used for those purposes.

Finally, none of the instruments identified in this resource had information for substantive validity, and only three had information on fairness. Information for the substantive com­ponent of validity is necessary to facilitate understanding of whether respondents process the content of items from a measure as the developers intended.

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