An exploratory investigation of the internalizing problem behavior among children from kindergarten to third grade

Guang Zeng, University of Pennsylvania


Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study data issued by the National Center for Education Statistics, this dissertation examined the prevalence of the internalizing problem behavior among a nationally representative sample of children from kindergarten to third grade in the United States. Hierarchical Individual Growth Curve Modeling was conducted to explore the stability, early trajectories, and risk factors of such internalizing problems. It was found that about 2.28% of kindergarten children displayed symptoms of severe internalizing problems, and that the prevalence increased steadily over time from kindergarten to third grade. In particular, the school level socio-economic status was inversely related to the level of children's internalizing problems. The study also showed that boys tend to display more internalizing problems than girls, and black children more so than non-black children. Collectively, these demographic variables, which include child age, child gender, child level SES, school level SES, and child race (black vs. non-black) explained about 3.38% of variations of internalizing problems across children. Thus, although demographic variables are generally associated with differential levels of child psychopathology, they are not the defining risk factors for children's internalizing problems. For the first time, national statistics on the characteristics of children's internalizing problems are made available through this dissertation. By providing evidence of the existing mental health problems among school children, this study helps to inform discussions about the importance of proper attention to children's social-emotional development, which was often an oversight in the traditional education paradigm. This dissertation will contribute to current national debates on the efficacy of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. More importantly, it holds great promise to positively impact the future directions of U.S. education policies.

Subject Area

Preschool education|Elementary education|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Zeng, Guang, "An exploratory investigation of the internalizing problem behavior among children from kindergarten to third grade" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3271843.