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Examining interactions between social and cultural child and neighborhood characteristics on children’s developmental outcomes : studies from the population-based early development Instrument project

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Title: Examining interactions between social and cultural child and neighborhood characteristics on children’s developmental outcomes : studies from the population-based early development Instrument project
Author: Guhn, Martin Alex
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Human Development, Learning and Culture
Copyright Date: 2009
Publicly Available in cIRcle 2009-04-17
Abstract: This dissertation presents three manuscripts: The first manuscript presents a theoretical framework that integrates Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory with theories from the school readiness and neighborhood effects literatures, and considerations from validity theory. The framework is applied to the Early Development Instrument project, for which data on Kindergarten children’s developmental outcomes in the physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and communicative domains are obtained via teacher ratings on the Early Development Instrument (EDI, Janus & Offord, 2007). These data are linked, at a population level, to children’s personal characteristics, health outcomes, academic achievement, and to social and cultural characteristics of their neighborhoods. The first manuscript illustrates how a comprehensive, integrative theoretical framework rooted in Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory can lead to specific research design, research analysis, and validation research recommendations for the EDI project. The second manuscript presents differential item functioning analyses that examine whether the EDI measures (the construct of) school readiness in the same way across different groups of children (according to gender, English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) status, and Aboriginal background). The analyses detected no item bias, thus presenting a critical prerequisite for further analyses that employ the EDI for examining group differences. The third manuscript presents a multilevel analysis that explores whether the theories of double jeopardy and relative functionalism can predict and explain interaction effects between socioeconomic status and gender or first language background (English, Punjabi, and Cantonese) on children’s EDI scores. The findings show that (i) girls are rated higher than boys on all EDI domains, and that this gender gap is consistent across the socioeconomic spectrum, (ii) group differences between ESL and non-ESL children on all domains (except for communication) can be attributed to group differences in socioeconomic status, (iii) the socioeconomic gradients for the English and Cantonese groups are equally pronounced, but significantly flatter for the Punjabi group, and (iv) the Cantonese group receives the relatively highest scores on the cognitive domain, and the relatively lowest scores on the communication domain. The concluding chapter highlights the theoretical and empirical significance of the research presented in this dissertation, addresses its strengths and limitations, and discusses implications for future analyses.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/7286

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