Cinar E, Chaput-Langlois S, Fitzpatrick C, Garon-Carrier G. (2023). Why children differ in classroom engagement: Insights from a prospective longitudinal cohort of elementary school students. Journal of Educational Psychology. 60(10), 4102–4116.
This study investigates how individual-level factors contribute to classroom engagement variations of boys and girls across the elementary school years. Classroom engagement was assessed four times between the ages of 7 and 12 years in a large, representative population-based sample (N = 877) using latent growth modeling. Predictors included the sex of the child, the family income, and the mother’s educational attainment when the child was 5 months old, along with the child’s early receptive vocabulary, numeracy, motor and attentional skills, motivation to learn, and internalizing and externalizing behaviors measured at age 6 years. On average, classroom engagement progressively improved over time. Child vocabulary skills, attention, intrinsic motivation, and externalizing behaviors predicted initial levels of classroom engagement. Child classroom engagement also showed slower progression over time when receptive vocabulary and attentional skills were high. This trend was slightly different when the analyses were conducted separately for boys and girls. Girls with higher attentional skills and fewer externalizing behaviors at age 6 showed slower improvement in classroom engagement throughout elementary school, while boys did not significantly improve in their classroom engagement. Overall, these results suggest that several individual-level factors contribute to classroom engagement. Children with lower levels of receptive vocabulary, attentional skills, and motivation to learn, and those displaying externalizing behavior may benefit from additional help to boost their classroom engagement.