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Road to Readiness: Pathways From Low-Income Children's Early Interactions to School Readiness Skills

Martoccio, Tiffany L. MA; Brophy-Herb, Holly E. PhD; Onaga, Esther E. PhD

Infants & Young Children:
doi: 10.1097/IYC.0000000000000014
Original Research/Study

This study utilized data from the Michigan component of the National Early Head Start Research and Evaluation study to examine toddlers' joint attention at 14 months (parent report measure of toddlers' initiating behaviors, e.g., extends arm to show you something he or she is holding, reaches out and gives you a toy he or she has been holding, and points at something interesting) as a mediator of the relations between early mother–child interactions (e.g., mother and child behaviors in response to one another's cues) and later school readiness skills in a low-income sample (N = 127 mother–child dyads). Understanding relations between early parent–child interactions, joint attention, and later school readiness skills is critical to identifying developmental paths of economically at-risk children. Results showed that toddlers' joint attention behaviors at 14 months partially mediated the path between mother–child interaction at 14 months and later school readiness, measured by children's emotion regulation, social-cognition, language development, and literacy and mathematics academic outcomes, at approximately 5 years of age. Results suggest the important roles of early mother–child interactions in low-income families and joint attention in promoting school readiness skills.

Author Information

Human Development and Family Studies, Michigan State University, East Lansing (Ms Martoccio and Drs Brophy-Herb and Onaga).

Correspondence: Tiffany L. Martoccio, MA, Human Development and Family Studies, Michigan State University, 552 W. Circle Dr., 7 Human Ecology Bldg., East Lansing, MI 48824 (

This research was supported, in part, by the “local” Michigan component of the National Early Head Start Research and Evaluation (EHSRE) Project/Pathways Project. The findings reported here are based on research conducted as part of the national Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, under Contract 105-95-1936, to Mathematica Policy Research, Princeton, NJ, and Columbia University's Center for Children and Families, Teachers College, in conjunction with the Early Head Start Research Consortium. The consortium consists of representatives from 17 programs participating in the evaluation, 15 local research teams, the evaluation contractors, and the ACF. Research institutions in the consortium include the ACF; Catholic University of America; Columbia University; Harvard University; Iowa State University; Mathematica Policy Research; Medical University of South Carolina; Michigan State University; New York University; University of Arkansas; University of California, Los Angeles; University of Colorado Health Sciences Center; University of Kansas; University of Missouri–Columbia; University of Pittsburgh; University of Washington School of Education; University of Washington School of Nursing; and Utah State University. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.